The NHL has officially withdrawn from the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the league would not be sending its players to the Winter Games due to concerns about COVID-19 and complications that could arise. On Wednesday morning, that became official when the NHL confirmed the news in a statement.
“The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate in a ‘best of the best’ tournament. Accordingly, we have waited as long as possible to make the decision while exploring every available option to enable our Players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Game,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
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
“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 December 23 — Olympic participation is no longer feasible. We certainly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation, and the Beijing Organizing Committee to host NHL Players but current circumstances have made it impossible for us to proceed despite everyone’s best efforts. We look forward to Olympic participation in 2026.”
The NHL and NHLPA had until January 10 to opt out without facing any kind of financial penalty.
One of the concerns about traveling to China for the Olympics was the possibility of catching COVID and being forced to quarantine in the country before returning to the United States — a quarantine that could have kept them out of action for up to a month.
“Our focus and goal have been and must remain to responsibly and safely complete the entirety of the NHL regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs in a timely manner,” Bettman continued. “Therefore, with stringent health protocols once again in place, we will behin utilizing available dates during the February 2-22 window (originally contemplated to accommodate Olympic participation) to reschedule games that have been, or may yet be, postponed.”
While it’s an unfortunate development, it’s ultimately the right move for the safety of players and logistics of the league.