Report: NHL Participation in 2022 Winter Olympics Under Pressure

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Report: NHL Participation in 2022 Winter Olympics Under Pressure

Chicago Blackhawks

As it stands right now, the NHL is still on track to send players to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in February. The league’s Olympic break begins the day after the end of the NHL All-Star weekend in Las Vegas. But after the Ottawa Senators and now the New York Islanders have had to have games postponed due to high numbers of players and personnel in COVID protocols, the idea of sending players to the Olympics is starting to get a bit stale.

In a Twitter thread from ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, she details the possibility that the NHL and NHLPA may be implementing stricter COVID protocols for players during All-Star weekend to avoid COVID issues for players heading to Beijing following the end of the festivities.

The league has until January 10th to opt-out of sending players to the Olympics. They could opt-out after the January 10 deadline, but would face financial penalties, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.

I wouldn’t want to be stuck somewhere for three weeks either.

The idea that the NHL still wanted to hold an NHL All-Star weekend leading into the Olympic break never made much sense, at the time. In every other year over the past nearly two decades, the league did not have an All-Star break in an Olympic year. But with the uncertainty of COVID and the way the league reluctantly agreed to send players, the All-Star break gives the NHL the ability to potentially opt-out of the Olympics but still “put on a show” during that break period. If the league were to opt-out, there would be scheduling changes across the board to accommodate the then three-week gap in the season.

Again, as it stands now, the league is still planning to send players to Beijing. On the current trajectory in the league regarding COVID protocols though, it would seem like the NHL, a league that historically operates in their own interests rather than the interests of the sport of hockey itself, would lean towards keeping players home. The newly discovered COVID variant in South Africa doesn’t calm things down either. We shall see what comes in the next month and a half as the opt-in/opt-out deadline approaches.

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Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.