The NHL is going to the Olympics. The league sent out a memo to players today (via John Hoven of SiriusXM NHL) outlining their agreement with the IIHF and IOC to send NHL talent to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China. There has been a break built into the schedule, allowing for players to depart North America on February 6. As Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports, the league retains the right to withdraw participation if the COVID situation worsens or if their regular schedule has been disrupted by outbreaks, leaving no room to reschedule games.
The 2022 Games will be the first true best-on-best action since 2016, when the World Cup was held just prior to the start of the season. This will be the first time the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 2014, when Canada defeated Sweden for the gold medal. The tournament scoring leaders that year were Phil Kessel and Erik Karlsson, two players that would be hard-pressed to repeat that feat this time around.
Olympic participation was one of the sticking points in last summer’s CBA negotiation, though the league only agreed to work as hard as possible to find an agreement with the IIHF and did not guarantee the NHL would go. They have proven true to their word, securing insurance for the players at the cost of the IIHF. There is no COVID-related insurance, according to the memo, but the IIHF has created a $5MM fund to help cover lost NHL salaries for any athlete that contracts COVID at the event (provided they were following protocols at the time).
One note that may be of interest is the size of the rink. The Games will be played on regulation NHL-sized rinks and officiated by NHL referees and linesmen.