The most shocking development leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China is undoubtedly the NHL’s decision to ban all players from participating in the Olympic games. The decision was made due to rising COVID-19 concerns from the omicron variant which is rapidly spreading throughout the world. The 2022 Winter Olympics begin on February 4, 2022, but the hockey games are going to look significantly different this year.
The NHL has postponed 50 games this season due to COVID-19 infections throughout the league. The “material disruption” and rescheduling of games has forced the NHL to remove itself and its players from the Winter Olympics. The 2022 winter games will mark the second Olympics in a row in which NHL players will not participate (NHL players did not partake in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics due to IOC disputes over travel costs and injuries).
Strict COVID regulations in Beijing also complicated the entire situation. Any player who tests positive for COVID-19 while in China must test negative two times (24 hours apart) or subject themselves to a quarantine period of three to five weeks.
Instead of the NHL’s stars dividing and playing for their home countries, we will see ice hockey players from the world’s other professional hockey leagues. Minor-league, collegiate and players who recently retired from the NHL are also going to fill up roster spots for countries to participate in the games.
The NHL has made it clear that they want to send players to the Winter Olympics in 2026, but as of right now they are focusing on completing the first 82-game season since 2018-19. The dates that were previously set aside for the Olympics, February 6 through February 28, are now going to be used to make up previously canceled regular-season NHL games.