The National Hockey League (NHL) announced Wednesday that it will not allow its players to participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after surging COVID-19 cases rip through the league.
“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 commissioner, Gary Bettman, said in a press release.
“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,” Bettman said.
Bettman reiterated the league’s plans to send players to the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics. There have already been 50 games postponed due to the soaring COVID-19 cases, including 32 this week, according to Bettman.
The league will use the scheduled Feb. 6-22 Olympic break to reschedule the postponed games.
“Certainly, the players and hockey fans are quite disappointed,” NHL Players Association director Don Fehr said in a statement, according to NHL.com. “But playing a full 82-game season this year, something the pandemic has prevented us from doing since the 2018-19 season, is very important. We expect that NHL players will return to the Olympics in 2026.”