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NHL players will not participate in Winter Olympics in Beijing

Players from the National Hockey League will sit Beijing 2022 out, the league said Tuesday (21 December). Olympic organizers confirmed the decision on Wednesday. 

2 min By Nick McCarvel
Sidney Crosby (front) and Alex Ovechkin
(Picture by 2017 Getty Images)

The coming Olympic Games Beijing 2022, set for February, will be without National Hockey League players.

The NHL, based in the U.S., announced the move on Tuesday (21 December), with Olympic officials confirming the decision on Wednesday.

"The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL players to represent their countries and participate in a ‘best on best’ tournament. Accordingly, we have waited as long as possible to make this decision while exploring every available option to enable our players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games," the NHL's commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events — 50 games already have been postponed through Dec. 23 — Olympic participation is no longer feasible," the statement went on.

The league paused games for an extended holiday break, 22-25 December, citing a number of positive Covid-19 cases due to the omicron variant.

NHL players also did not participate in the Games at PyeongChang 2018.

League officials and players agreed on the withdrawal, which the IOC responded to with the following:

“The IOC regrets that the NHL’s schedule has been so heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that they will no longer be able to release their players to attend the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. We know that the players were desperately keen to participate in the Beijing Games, having missed out on PyeongChang 2018, as they were the driving force behind the participation agreement that was reached in September between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. We are naturally disappointed for them that they will miss another opportunity to become Olympians.

"Nevertheless, we continue to look forward to the participation of the world’s best hockey players from the other elite ice hockey leagues around the world in Beijing. Their performances in PyeongChang achieved a large international broadcast audience and demonstrated the exciting, passionate ice hockey that we can expect, which, as in 2018, will be followed by fans from all around the world.”

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