The National Hockey League (NHL) will not be participating in next year’s Winter Olympics.
In announcement on Wednesday, the NHL said it would not be sending any of its players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, which are slated to start in February.
The NHL said the decision was made because the League’s regular-season schedule has been disrupted as a result of increasing COVID-19 cases and a rising number of postponed games.
“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,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
“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,” Bettman continued. “We certainly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) 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 NHL Players’ Association reached an agreement with the IIHF in September for the players to return to the Olympics for the first time since the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the first best-on-best international tournament since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, according to the League.
A break in the NHL regular season is scheduled from Feb. 3-22 to accommodate the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas and the Olympics. All-Star weekend remains scheduled to be held as planned with the 2022 NHL All-Star Skills presented by DraftKings Sportsbook on Feb. 4 and the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Feb. 5.
“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,” added Bettman. “Therefore, with stringent health protocols once again in place, we will begin utilizing available dates during the Feb. 6-22 window (originally contemplated to accommodate Olympic participation) to reschedule games that have been, or may yet be, postponed.”
As previously reported, the NHL said earlier this week that after two games on Tuesday, it would pause the current season until after Christmas Day. Games are scheduled to resume Dec. 27. The NHL has a roster of 31 teams nationally recognized teams.