NHL players haven’t taken part in the Winter Olympics since 2012 and hockey fans are going to have to wait until at least 2026 to see them participate again. The league announced on Wednesday that players will not be headed to the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
The league had until Jan. 10 to make a final decision in regards to opting out of the Beijing Olympics without any financial penalties. The decision comes on the heels of a massive COVID-19 outbreak across the league.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman noted that the league pausing the season on Wednesday night through Saturday due to increased COVID-19 cases impacted the decision.
Here’s what he said:
“We have waited as long as possible to make this decision while exploring every available option to enable our Players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events — 50 games already have been postponed through Dec. 23 — Olympic participation is no longer feasible”
NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr also explained the reasoning behind the decision, saying the league needs the Olympic period to make up games lost during the current pause and other postponed games from December.
“COVID-19 has unfortunately intervened, forcing dozens of games to be postponed this month alone. No matter how much we wish it were not the case, we need to utilize the Olympic period to reschedule these games,” Fehr said.
Several of the NHL’s players were outspoken about the fear of contracting COVID-19 while at the Olympics before the league made their decision.
The NHL’s COVID-19 protocols are also being updated through at least Jan. 7. This will include daily testing for both players and coaches in addition to pregame testing on a case-by-case basis.