NHL will participate in 2022 Beijing Olympics
The NHL is heading back to the Olympic Games.
After months of negotiating, the league came to an agreement with the NHLPA, IIHF, and IOC to take part in the 2022 event in Beijing.
The arrangement was settled after a lengthy period of uncertainty during which NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly both expressed concern on separate occasions that a deal may not get done.
"I know that I can speak for hockey fans around the world when I say that we absolutely welcome the decision to bring back best-on-best ice hockey to the Olympics," IIHF President Rene Fasel said. "We had many constructive discussions, and a lot of hard work was put into making this happen within the time we set out for ourselves, and I want to thank all parties involved for their support and commitment."
The league and NHLPA can pull out of the Olympics if COVID-19 conditions worsen or if NHL games are canceled and cannot be rescheduled during the 2021-22 regular season, according to a memo sent out to the players. The opt-out deadline is set for early January, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reports.
"We understand how passionately NHL players feel about representing and competing for their countries. We are very pleased that we were able to conclude arrangements that will allow them to resume best on best competition on the Olympic stage," Daly wrote in a statement.
Players also have the right to decline to go to the Olympics at any time without consequence. Each participant's contract will be insured in the event of an injury, but there is no insurance for COVID-related illnesses. However, the IIHF agreed to create a $5 million fund to help cover lost salaries due to COVID-19 if all affected players followed pandemic protocols while at the Games.
Although the Chinese government and the IOC are currently workshopping these protocols, the Games are expected to take place within a tight bubble with limitations on where the Olympians can go and who they can socialize with. It's anticipated that athletes won't be allowed to go sightseeing or interact with anyone not on their regular contact list and will additionally have to undergo daily COVID-19 testing, social distancing, mask-wearing, and temperature checks.
Everyone inside the bubble, excluding very limited exceptions, is expected to be vaccinated.
National clubs are not permitted to hold in-person orientation camps but may hold virtual meetings before the Games. Teams will submit their long lists of participating players by Oct. 15.
After participating in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, the league could not reach an agreement in time for the 2018 event in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The Olympic Athletes from Russia captured gold in 2018, with Germany settling for silver and Canada claiming bronze. In 2014, Canada secured the gold, Sweden took home silver, and Finland nabbed bronze.
The 2022 Games run from Feb. 9 to Feb. 20. China, Canada, the Olympic Athletes from Russia, Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, Latvia, and Denmark have all qualified to participate.