The NHL has officially announced that its players won’t be going to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
The move, confirmed to The Canadian Press on Tuesday by a person with direct knowledge of the decision, comes amid COVID-19 concerns that have seen an explosion of cases and 45 games postponed since Dec. 13.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement that “profound disruption” to the league’s schedule caused by COVID-19-related events made Olympic participation “no longer feasible.”
The NHL and NHLPA officially committed to sending players to China for the 2022 Games back in September, but that agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation allowed either party to withdraw if COVID-19 conditions rendered participation “impractical or unsafe.”
The league currently has more than 15 per cent of its players in virus protocol, forcing a string of postponements.
NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr said in a statement that while players are disappointed in not being able to participate in the Beijing Games, completing an 82-game season in a campaign mired with interruptions caused by COVID-19 took precedence.
Fehr said he expects that NHL players will return to the Olympics in 2026.
—The Canadian Press