: The NHL Reportedly Will Not Send Players to Beijing Olympics Over COVID-19 Delays to Season #WorldNEWS The NHL is not sending players to the Beijing Olympics over concerns that the pandemic will disrupt
The NHL Reportedly Will Not Send Players to Beijing Olympics Over COVID-19 Delays to Season #WorldNEWS
The NHL is not sending players to the Beijing Olympics over concerns that the pandemic will disrupt the league’s ability to complete a full season.
Two people with direct knowledge of discussions told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the league informed the NHL Players’ Association it was exercising its right to withdraw from the Beijing Games because there was a material disruption to the season.
The people spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because an announcement had yet to be made. An announcement was expected Wednesday.
The decision is an abrupt turnaround from September, when the NHL, union, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation struck a deal to put the best players in the world back on sports’ biggest stage after they skipped the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. The fast-spreading omicron coronavirus variant forced the scrapping of those plans.
A week ago, the NHL attempted to halt the spread of the omicron variant by reintroducing more restrictive COVID-19 protocols, which included daily testing and limiting player gatherings, especially on the road.
Then a sudden rash of postponements brought the total to 50 this season, a daunting number to reschedule and complete an 82-game season while taking an Olympic break for more than two weeks in February. The NHL’s bottom line is at stake, with the league and players drawing no direct money from competing at the Winter Games.
The decision comes long before the league faced a Jan. 10 deadline to pull out without financial penalty. As a result, the men’s Olympic hockey tournament will go on without NHL players for the second consecutive time.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, the likely U. S. Olympic starter, expressed displeasure Tuesday with the decision not to go and called the rash of postponements overkill.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby already was bracing for the possibility of the NHL not participating and, at the age of 34, ending what could be his final chance to represent Canada at the Olympics one more time.
“These are opportunities and experiences of a lifetime that you don’t get very many of as an athlete, and you might only get one,” said Crosby, who won Olympic gold with Canada in 2010 and 2014. “It just might happen to fall in your window and if it doesn’t happen to work out, it’s unfortunate. ”
While the NHL and NHLPA agreed on Olympic participation last year as part of a collective bargaining agreement extension, the deal to go to Beijing was contingent on pandemic conditions not worsening.
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Unless the Beijing Games are postponed a year like Tokyo’s, a generation of stars including American Auston Matthews, Canadians Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, German Leon Draisaitl and Swede Victor Hedman will need to wait until 2026 to play in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament for the first time.
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