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NHL announces players won’t be allowed to go to Olympics due to games postponed by COVID

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Wednesday that a disruption to the league’s regular season schedule will push Olympic participation out of the question.

A wave of positive COVID-19 test results forced several teams to stop playing, increasing the number of postponed games to 50.

Those postponed games are set to be made up during the February 6-22 previously scheduled Olympic break. Bettman commented on the announcement, saying, “Given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events…Olympic participation is no longer feasible.”

He continued, “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.” 

That reality became apparent to player Steven Stamkos the day before the NHL made the announcement that an American team would not be traveling to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

After being released from Canada’s Olympic roster in 2010, then injured once he was named to the 2014 team, and once again unable to participate in 2018 because the NHL opted out, the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning accepted what it meant that the pandemic crushed the team’s hopes of attending this time around.

“That was my third legitimate chance of playing in the Olympics, and here I am sitting [here] probably not even going to get to play a game,” Stamkos commented. “It’s disappointing, but at the same time there’s not much that we can do.” 

Many of the NHL’s best players have likely missed their Olympic window. As Stamkos’ Swedish teammate Victor Hedman said on Tuesday, “Us to not be able to go, it’s going to hurt for a while.”

The International Olympic Committee relayed its disappointment that players, some who helped push for the agreement to go to Beijing, will not be able to participate.

“We continue to look forward to the participation of the world’s best hockey players from the other elite ice hockey leagues around the world in Beijing,” said the IOC in a statement. “Their performances in Pyeongchang achieved a large international broadcast audience and demonstrated the exciting, passionate ice hockey that we can expect, which, as in 2018, will be followed by fans from all around the world.” 

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: TIMES-NEWS.COM

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