The National Hockey League and its Players’ Association has officially pulled the plug on participation in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games set to run February 4-20 from Beijing, China.
This news does not come as a shock, as the past two weeks of NHL hockey have been ravaged by COVID’s latest variant: Omicron.
Citing major schedule disruption as the main culprit, the NHL announced that players within its league will not be allowed to travel abroad to play for their respective countries in the Olympics. With NHL players also locked out of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, it means it has been since 2014 that the world has seen the very best hockey players participate in the quadrennial event.
“The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate in a ‘best on best’ tournament,” read a statement from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “Accordingly, 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. We certainly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Beijing Organizing Committee to host NHL Players but current circumstances have made it impossible for us to proceed despite everyone’s best efforts. We look forward to Olympic participation in 2026.”
That said, Connor McDavid may have his first Olympic experience at the age of 30, while current superstars Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin may have already retired from professional play, or be already aged out of national consideration.
According to Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong (of the St. Louis Blues), Crosby had already been notified that he would have been serving as the Canadian captain. This of course will no longer occur.
“When we got our management staff named, the first decision we made was to reach out to Sidney and let him know that we would love him to be our captain; this was well over a year ago,” Armstrong said. “With the latest surge and the cancellation of games, the uncertainty of what’s ahead of us – I certainly support and understand both the NHLPA and the league’s decision.”
With a league schedule still in tact through April, the NHL will quickly scramble to figure out arena availability and put together a new schedule of games that had been postponed. This will occur in advance of the predetermined February Olympic break.
“Our focus and goal have been and must remain to responsibly and safely complete the entirety of the NHL regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs in a timely manner,” Bettman added. “Therefore, with stringent health protocols once again in place, we will begin utilizing available dates during the Feb. 6-22 window (originally contemplated to accommodate Olympic participation) to reschedule games that have been, or may yet be, postponed.”
Canadians will now spend the month of February cheering for the likes of Chris DiDomenico and Adam Tambellini, who will look to take back the gold medal from the Russians.