Back in December, the NHL announced that the league’s players won’t be participating in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. It’s not a boycott, but it has everything to do with COVID-19 and the way the pandemic has affected the NHL’s regular season.
As of February 2, more than 100 games have been postponed due to the number of COVID-19 cases surging throughout the league. With things so far off track, it’s not a shock that the NHL wants to prioritize getting their regular season finished as smoothly as possible without yet another interruption for Olympic play, let alone risking their players traveling overseas and bringing the virus back with them.
“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,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement released by the league on December 23. “We look forward to Olympic participation in 2026.”
It’s not the first time the NHL has pulled out of the Winter Olympics, as they made a similar decision for the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. That decision was reportedly made due to a string of financial disputes between the NHL and the IOC, as the IOC wouldn’t cover travel and accommodations for the NHL players in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
For now, the NHL season will continue as normal throughout the Olympics as they’re just over halfway through the 82-game season for 2021-22.