NHL, NHLPA will make decision on Olympics in coming days after rash of postponements
The NHL and NHL Players' Association said Sunday that they hope to make a decision soon on whether to continue with Olympic participation after making another rash of postponements.
After the NHL agreed in the last collective bargaining agreement that players could go to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Games, it said it would depend on whether the COVID-19 situation would create so many postponements that the league would need the Olympic break in order to reschedule games.
The postponements are now piling up, and the league on Sunday said it was putting on hold any pre-Christmas games involving Canadian and U.S. teams in order to prevent a Canadian border crossing.
The Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators were already shut down through Christmas because of rising cases. Sunday, the Detroit Red Wings were added to that list.
"Given the disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events – 27 games had been postponed as of Saturday and at least 12 more will be postponed through Dec. 23 – and the continued uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID pandemic, the NHL and NHLPA are actively discussing the matter of NHL player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, and expect to be in a position to announce a final determination in the coming days," the sides said in a joint statement.
They did say, though, that they would not pause the regular season.
"Although there has been a recent increase in positive COVID test results among players, coaches and hockey staff, there have been a low number of positive cases that have resulted in concerning symptoms or serious illness," the statement said. "Therefore, the NHLPA’s and NHL’s medical experts have determined that, with virtually all players and club hockey staff fully vaccinated, the need to temporarily shut down individual teams should continue to be made on a case-by-case basis."
The league on Saturday released enhanced protocols for players and club personnel.
The rules include a prohibition on players dining at indoor restaurants while on the road, locker room access limited to players and club traveling personnel, daily testing and team meetings being held virtually.
It also requires mask wearing inside team facilities and during travel. The memo reminded teams that masks are required on team charters and said that some charter companies had been complaining about "non-compliance with this requirement and ask for your strict adherence to it."
The NHL went to five Olympics from 1998 to 2014 but sat out the 2018 Games.
Owners generally don't like shutting down the league to send players, believing that it takes momentum from the season. But players take pride in playing for their countries.
This season, though, some have expressed concern about whether they would face a long quarantine if they tested positive while in Beijing. Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner, who's from Sweden, already has said he would skip the Olympics.