(NEW YORK) — An agreement has been reached that will allow NHL players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
The deal was brokered between the NHL, the NHL Players Association, the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation, allowing NHL players to return to the Olympics after they were not allowed to participate in 2018. It does, however, contain an opt-out clause that would allow the NHL and NHLPA to pull players if the schedule for the upcoming NHL season is disrupted by cancellations and the Olympic break is needed to make up games.
NHL players not participating in the 2018 Games ended a string of five consecutive Olympiads where the league allowed its stars to compete on the international stage.
“As any Canadian kid, your dream is to play in the NHL, and then your dream is to play for Team Canada at the Olympics. I think that’s always how it is, and I’m no different,” Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid told reporters last week. “Obviously, with not going to the Olympics, it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to represent our country at a best-on-best tournament. So, my last time would have been a world juniors [in 2015], so it’s been a long time, and I’m certainly looking forward to, I guess, having the ability to chase down a spot and hopefully make the team and represent my country at the Olympics.”
The deal stipulates that the IIHF and IOC will pay for travel and insurance costs for players, and will cover players’ guests as well.
The NHL’s Olympic break is scheduled to run from February 3 to February 22. All-Star Weekend will begin on February 4, whether players participate in the Olympics or not.
Any NHL players who take part in the Olympics would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with limited exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Multiple league sources told ESPN that “an overwhelming majority” of NHL players have already been vaccinated.
Sources also say that players are being advised to prepare for strict protocols during the 2022 Games, which could include a bubble environment, daily testing, restrictions on movement and interactions, and even the possibility of wearing GPS devices to help with contact tracing and compliance.
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