National Hockey League players will not compete in February’s Beijing Winter Olympics in the wake of 50 NHL games being postponed over COVID-19 issues, according to multiple reports Tuesday.
ESPN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and other newspapers cited unnamed sources in saying the league and the NHL Players Association had reached agreement not to send talent to China.
Without the NHL’s elite millionaire stars, national teams at the Olympics will likely resemble those at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, when minor-league and recently retired players filled out rosters, with the Olympic Athletes from Russia capturing the gold medal.
The NHL and players union had agreed to send players to the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics unless league seasons were impacted by COVID-19 postponements.
With Tuesday’s Washington at Philadelphia game being postponed by an outbreak from the visitors, the NHL has been forced to postpone 50 games this season.
Staying home during the period of the Beijing Olympics would open two weeks to reschedule contests and still provide something of a rest for most of the players.
The NHL plans to pause the season after Tuesday’s lone contest, which finds Tampa Bay at Vegas.
Games planned for Wednesday and Thursday were called off ahead of a scheduled three-day Christmas weekend break, which was tweaked to have players return to work on Sunday.
Teams would be off Wednesday through Saturday and return Sunday for testing, with negative tests required to enter team facilities.
On Sunday, the NHL announced that all games involving cross-border travel for US and Canadian clubs would not be played. Nine teams had already shut down operations to the break by Monday.
That’s when concerns rose about the NHL skipping Beijing.
“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,” a league spokesman said Sunday.