It is now official that the NHL will not be sending players to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
After a rise in COVID cases across the league forced one-third of teams to shut down prior to the Christmas Holiday break and over 100 players, coaches, and team staff members to land in league COVID protocols, the league and the NHLPA were left with virtually no choice but to pull players participating.
NHL announces that there will not be an Olympic break, NHL Players will not be able to participate in 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 22, 2021
This will now be the second Winter Olympics in-a-row to not have NHL players participating in the Men’s Hockey tournament after the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, which saw Russian (ROC) win Gold. The NHL has not had players participate in the Olympics since the 2014 Sochi Games, where Canada (with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith) won Gold. The Blackhawks would have likely had ay least a half-dozen players heading to the Olympics this year, with Team USA likely featuring Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Seth Jones.
USA Hockey released this statement today following the official news:
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) December 22, 2021
Both two-time Olympians, Toews and Kane spoke yesterday about the player not getting the opportunity this year to play in the Olympics and what may have been their last opportunities to be selected to their National teams.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews Reflect on Missed Olympics Opportunityhttps://t.co/i3sY24rYE2
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) December 21, 2021
With the NHL not sending players to the Olympics, and having no individual opt-out opportunities (same as in 2018), who will be going to the Olympics? Remember, this isn’t like COVID concerns and quarantine rules only apply to and worry the NHL players. Finding players still willing to go will be difficult for most nations. Chris Peters of Daily Faceoff took a shot at putting together the “Plan B” rosters with non-NHL players.
Here are the mock Plan B rosters I built for USA and Canada in the event NHL players would not be going to the Olympics. Now we know they are not, so… enjoy? https://t.co/k2TGLtWYb3
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) December 22, 2021
With the NHL not heading to the Olympics, there is now a three-week gap in the schedule and over 50 games that need to be rescheduled. The Blackhawks already have three home games that need to be rescheduled themselves. As of now, the NHL All-Star weekend, which was going to lead into the Olympics break, is still scheduled as planned in Las Vegas for February 4-5. Following that, we may see a flurry of NHL games moved around in February to make up for lost time.
And it's not just about re-scheduling postponed games in that three-week period but also moving other games around from teams that actually were not affected yet by cancellations so that those teams have games to play as well during that February period. 2/2
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 22, 2021
Olympic Hockey is just not the same on the Men’s side without the best of the best in the world competing.
The 2018 Winter Games lacked that special something for many fans without having the NHL players participating. That will likely be the sense again for the Men’s tournament in 2022. There is a sense that the Beijing Winter Olympics could face a postponement to 2023, like the Tokyo Summer Games did from 2020 to 2021, but the IOC and the host committee do not foresee needing to take that measure. If that ended up being the case, the league would likely send players again to the Games if they were held in 2023. As it stands now, the league is expecting to send players to the Winter Olympics again in 2026 when they are hosted in Italy.