As expected, the NHL and NHLPA made it official Wednesday: there will be no NHLers at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. The league and players will now use the two-week period in February they had blocked off in the regular season schedule so that NHL players could participate in the Winter Games to make up as many of the 50 regular-season games that have already been postponed.
“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 a Wednesday morning press release. “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.
“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.”
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr also released a statement Wednesday morning:
“Since the CBA extension was reached 17 months ago, NHL players have looked forward with great anticipation to once again participating in the Winter Olympics. Until very recently, we seemed to be on a clear path to go to Beijing. 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.
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.”
This is the second straight Winter Olympics that will not have NHLers and a best-on-best Men’s hockey tournament after the league and NHLPA couldn’t reach an agreement in part of the last CBA to have NHL players travel to PyeongChang and play.
Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was going to be an assistant coach for Hockey Canada and Bruins GM Don Sweeney had been tabbed as an Assistant GM. Charlie McAvoy (USA), Patrice Bergeron (Canada), Brad Marchand (Canada), and David Pastrnak (Czech Republic) were all expected to represent their respective countries in Beijing. Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark was also expected to be a candidate for the Swedish team as well.
This was likely the last chance for Bergeron, 36, and Marchand, 33, to represent Canada at the Winter Games. This was also likely the last chance superstars like Sidney Crosby, 34, Marc-Andre Fleury, 37, and Carey Price, 34, would get to don the Maple Leaf and for Alexander Ovechkin, 36, and Evgeni Malkin, 35, to represent Russia.