The National Hockey League (NHL) has pulled out of the Winter Olympics in Beijing because of “profound disruption” to the regular-season schedule caused by Covid-19.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association had negotiated participation in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics, having missed the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, on the grounds that the current NHL season was not ‘materially impacted’ by Covid-19.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement that going to the Beijing Games is no longer possible.
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"The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate in a 'best on best' tournament,” he said.
“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.
"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."
The NHL had been given until January 10 to pull out of the Olympics if a financial penalty was to be avoided.
“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," added Bettman.
The NHL will now seek to use the planned break for the Olympics, February 6 to 22, to instead reschedule the numerous games that have been postponed in the NHL regular season.
Bettman said the NHL’s priority has always been completing the regular season.
"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.
“Therefore, with stringent health protocols once again in place, we will begin utilizing available dates during the February 6 to 22 window to reschedule games that have been, or may yet be, postponed."
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