Public/Global Health

NHL confirms players won’t participate in Beijing Olympics

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The National Hockey League (NHL) has confirmed that its players won’t participate in the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics amid COVID-19 concerns. 

In a statement on Wednesday, the league said it will instead use the previously scheduled Feb. 6-22 Olympic break to make up postponed games and those that need to be rescheduled.

Due most significantly to a surge of team COVID-19 outbreaks in recent weeks, 50 games have been postponed this season as of Wednesday.

“The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate in a ‘best on best’ tournament. 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,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in the statement. 

 

“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. 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,” Bettman concluded. 

This news comes following the league’s announcement on Monday that it will pause the 2021-22 regular season beginning on Wednesday through Dec. 26. 

The NHL postponed cross-border games for a week as multiple clubs, including the Calgary Flames, are currently dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. 

The league also did not allow players to participate in the last Olympic Winter Games, which took place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, due to a dispute with the International Olympic Committee over covering travel and insurance costs for players overseas. 

In a statement, the executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association, Don Fehr, said that, even with the disappointing news, he fully expects the NHL to return to Olympic play in 2026. 

“Certainly, the players and hockey fans are quite disappointed. But playing a full 82-game season this year, something the pandemic has prevented us from doing since the 2018-19 season, is very important. We expect that NHL players will return to the Olympics in 2026,” Fehr said. 

Tags COVID-19 outbreak Gary Bettman National Hockey League NHL NHLPA
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