NHL pulls out of Beijing Winter Olympics as covid-19 cases rise
The National Hockey League will not be sending its players to the men’s ice hockey tournament at the Beijing Olympics, the second without NHL players.
The NHL and NHL Players' Association have struck a deal to pull out of the 2022 Winter Olympics, being held in Beijing from Feb. 4-20 of 2022, amid the current covid-19 disruptive outbreak, being driven to a large extent by the new omicron variant. A person familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity as an official announcement is still expected to come out tomorrow, Wednesday.
In making its decision, the league did not consult or seek permission from the International Olympic Committee or International Ice Hockey Federation.
When the NHL reached the agreement that players could participate at the 2022 Winter Games, it said it would depend on whether the virus situation would create so many postponements that the league would need the Olympic break to reschedule games.
The postponements recently have been piling up, and on Sunday the league postponed all U.S. and Canada cross-border games through Christmas, Dec. 24-26. On Monday, the NHL Christmas break shifted two days earlier.
There have been a total of 50 postponed games, including the earlier ones in the season, and 48 left to reschedule. As of today, more than 15% of the league’s players have been in covid-19 protocols, according to ESPN.
Teams that were already shut down through Christmas were the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators. On Sunday, the Detroit Red Wings were added to the list.
NHL players and Olympics history
NHL players went to five Olympic games- from 1988 to 2014, but did not participate in the Pyeongchang games in 2018. The reason is because the league was reluctant to send its players where they could get hurt after interrupting a regular season.
Even though the NHL had until Jan. 10 to pull out of the games without financial ramifications, the early decision helps other hockey federations to find alternate players.