The National Hockey League, the Players’ Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation have come to an agreement that will see NHL players participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China this February.
“The agreement allows for the possibility of a later decision to withdraw in the event evolving COVID conditions are deemed by the NHL/NHLPA to render participation by NHL players to be impractical or unsafe.” the NHL wrote in a statement released on Friday morning.
Beijing 2022 will be the sixth such occurrence to which NHL players will serve as participants in the Olympic Games. Beginning in 1998 in Nagano, the NHL played in five-straight Olympics before missing out on the 2018 games in Pyeongchang due to various risks.
“I know that I can speak for hockey fans around the world when I say that we absolutely welcome the decision to bring back best-on-best ice hockey to the Olympics,” IIHF President René Fasel said. “We had many constructive discussions, and a lot of hard work was put into making this happen within the time we set out for ourselves, and I want to thank all parties involved for their support and commitment.”
The 12 participating countries have been divided into three groups with Canada joining the USA, Germany and China in Group A, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Denmark make up Group B, while Finland, Sweden, Slovakia and Latvia will play out of Group C.
Schedules will be posted soon, while teams will submit their player lists by January. The NHL and NHLPA have the option to pull out of the Olympics, should the conditions surrounding COVID-19 grow worse, or if the current NHL schedule deals with multiple COVID-19 related cancellations and needs the Olympic break to make up games.
“We understand how passionately NHL Players feel about representing and competing for their countries,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “We are very pleased that we were able to conclude arrangements that will allow them to resume best on best competition on the Olympic stage.“
The IIHF and International Olympic Committee will cover the travel and insurance costs for NHL players heading to the Olympics. Each player will be allowed one guest and will also be granted two complimentary tickets for each game. It will fall on the shoulders of the players themselves if they want to pick up additional COVID-19 related insurance. All participants are required to be fully-vaccinated to travel to Beijing for the Games.
The NHL will observe its Olympic break from February 3-22 following immediately after the NHL All-Star Weekend. Players participating in the All-Star Game on February 5 will fly directly to Beijing from the event.