With Tokyo 2020 now in the rear-view mirror, the sports world will quickly shift its focus to Beijing 2022.
One thing to be excited about with the upcoming Olympic Winter Games is the potential return of NHL players to the always-anticipated men’s ice hockey tournament.
The NHL announced in July it had agreed to pause play from Feb. 7 to Feb. 22 on its 2021-22 schedule to account for the Olympics, however it has yet to be finalized whether or not NHL players will be permitted to compete in Beijing as there remain several hurdles to clear.
As first reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the NHLPA has notified players the NHL will not pay for COVID-19 insurance at the Olympics or during Olympic qualification events and the league’s position is players won’t be paid for games they miss due to COVID-19 if they were to contract the virus while overseas at Olympic events.
Another issue, according to Brooks, is the NHLPA has been told international federations won’t pay the insurance either, so at this point the Players’ Association is strongly advising players not to participate in Olympic-qualifying events.
Qualification tournaments are scheduled to take place across Europe in late August. Twelve teams will compete for the final three spots in the Olympic tournament. Slovakia and Denmark are among the teams aiming to qualify and they’d be the countries most likely to be impacted by not having eligible NHLers on their rosters.
Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and host China are the nine teams that have already qualified.
NHL players didn’t participate in the Olympics in 2018, marking the first time since 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway that NHLers were absent from the Games.
The NHL will release a revised 2021-22 schedule if players don't end up participating in the Olympics for a second-straight time.
“The NHL and the NHL Players' Association will retain full authority to decide not to participate should COVID-19 conditions worsen or otherwise pose a threat to the health and safety of NHL Players, or for any other reason that may warrant such decision,” a July statement read.
The hockey events (one men’s and one women’s) at Beijing 2022 are slated to take place from Feb. 4 to Feb. 20 with games split between the Beijing National Indoor Stadium and Wukesong Arena.