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NHL players out of Olympics due to COVID-19 surge—reports

/ 04:25 PM December 22, 2021
NHL

Dec 17, 2021; Anaheim, California, USA; A general overall view of the Honda Center during the NHL game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Arizona Coyotes. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NHL players won’t take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, multiple outlets reported Tuesday.

An official announcement is expected within 24 hours.

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An agreement to keep the players home was made jointly by the league and the NHL Players Association against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases worldwide. Effective Wednesday, the league will be on pause through Dec. 26, with no games or practices and team facilities closed.

As of Tuesday, 50 NHL games had been postponed, and the NHL could use part of the Olympic break for makeup games, ESPN reported.

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In their collective bargaining agreement, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to Olympic participation in 2022 and 2026. The two sides, however, agreed to reconsider NHL players traveling to Beijing if COVID-19 disrupted the 2022 season.

Some players took the news of the expected decision hard.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of two (Olympics),” said Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who won gold medals with Canada in 2010 and 2014, per ESPN. “I definitely feel for the guys who have missed numerous opportunities. It’s not something where it’s the next year or you push it a couple of months. These are experiences of a lifetime that you don’t get very many of as an athlete.”

NHL players weren’t part of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, either — that time because of a dispute with the International Olympic Committee over insurance and travel costs. The rosters were filled by minor league players, pros from leagues such as Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League and amateur players, and the same is expected in Beijing.

The hockey tournament in Beijing is scheduled for Feb. 9-20. Olympic Athletes of Russia won the gold medal in 2018.

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