NHL players won't be competing at this year's Winter Olympics after all.
Less than two months ahead of the Winter Games, the NHL announced Wednesday that players will not be headed overseas to compete at the Olympics due to growing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
This would have been the NHL's first time allowing its players to compete at the Olympics since 2014. The NHL barred its players from participating in 2018 due largely to concerns of potential injury.
"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," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
"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."
Sports leagues across the world have been heavily impacted by the latest surge of COVID-19 cases. The NHL, of course, has been no exception. The league announced Monday night that it would suspend all operations from December 22 through its Christmas break.
The NHL isn't the only hockey entity impacted by COVID-19. Monday, USA Hockey announced the cancellation of the My Why Tour's seventh contest between the American and Canadian women, and it's unclear if the remaining two games of the USA-Canada rivalry series will go on as scheduled.
Hockey action at the 2022 Winter Olympics is set to begin Wednesday, February 2. And as a result of the NHL's decision, the nations participating in the men's competition are expected to have radically different rosters than what many were expecting just weeks ago.