Though there have been signs for weeks and reports over the last few days, the NHL had not officially confirmed whether or not they will be participating in the Olympics–until now. The league has issued a statement from commissioner Gary Bettman explaining their withdrawal from the Games, noting the same “profound” disruption that they had warned about:
The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate in a ‘best on best’ tournament. Accordingly, we have waited as long as possible to make this decision while exploring every available option to enable our Players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events — 50 games already have been postponed through Dec. 23 — Olympic participation is no longer feasible. We certainly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Beijing Organizing Committee to host NHL Players but current circumstances have made it impossible for us to proceed despite everyone’s best efforts. We look forward to Olympic participation in 2026.
Our focus and goal have been and must remain to responsibly and safely complete the entirety of the NHL regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs in a timely manner. Therefore, with stringent health protocols once again in place, we will begin utilizing available dates during the Feb. 6-22 window (originally contemplated to accommodate Olympic participation) to reschedule games that have been, or may yet be, postponed.
Of note, this is not a joint release with the NHLPA. The NHL has taken the lead here, even though there were obvious concerns from the players as well. For their part, the NHLPA has released a statement from executive director Don Fehr:
Since the CBA extension was reached 17 months ago, NHL players have looked forward with great anticipation to once again participating in the Winter Olympics. Until very recently, we seemed to be on a clear path to go to Beijing. COVID-19 has unfortunately intervened, forcing dozens of games to be postponed this month alone. No matter how much we wish it were not the case, we need to utilize the Olympic period to reschedule these games.
Certainly, the players and hockey fans are quite disappointed. But playing a full 82-game season this year, something the pandemic has prevented us from doing since the 2018-19 season, is very important. We expect that NHL players will return to the Olympics in 2026.
The players will continue to push for NHL participation in the 2026 Games, something that seems very far away at the moment. Those games will be held in Italy, hopefully with the best players in the world participating. To be clear, players are not allowed to individually opt into attending the 2022 Games without facing punishment from the league.
With the vast amount of postponements recently, there will be serious changes to the schedule in February.