- Gary Bettman recently cast doubt on whether NHL players will compete in the 2022 Beijing Olympics
- The league plans to release next season’s schedule before the 2021 draft on July 23
- IIHF president Rene Fasel said he hoped a resolution can be reached with the NHL and its players
The NHL participated in five consecutive Winter Olympics before skipping the 2018 Games in South Korea. Missing out on a chance to represent their country didn’t sit well with many top stars so the players negotiated to return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026 as part of a collective bargaining agreement last summer.
However, that agreement didn’t guarantee that NHLers would get to play in the Beijing Games, scheduled to open in February 2022, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman cast doubt on the idea last week, citing safety and logistical concerns as well as a tightening time frame.
Let’s take a look at Bettman’s recent quotes and read between the lines on whether there will be Olympic hockey to watch this winter. But before we do, be sure to check out our NHL betting tips page for advice on how to wager on hockey, and our Stanley Cup page could be useful as well!
Gary Bettman bums out hockey fans
“We don’t know as of right now, and that’s causing us a fair number of issues relative to getting next season up and running,” Bettman said during his state of the league address before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “We have real concerns about whether or not it’s sensible to have our players participating and us shutting down for an Olympic break.”
The commissioner continued, “We’re already past the time that we hoped this would be resolved. We’ll deal with it, just as we’ve managed to be agile and flexible over the last 15 months. But we’re getting to be on a rather short time frame now because this can’t go on indefinitely.”
— New York Post (@nypost) July 3, 2021
Why the time crunch? The league plans to release next season’s schedule before the 2021 draft on July 23 and if players are permitted to play in the 2022 Olympics, the NHL will need to bake a multi-week break into their schedule.
Bill Daly adds to the choir
In addition to the scheduling difficulties, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league and the International Olympic Committee have “worked through a lot of the more basic issues” but that other issues such as COVID-19’s impact on the Games remain obstacles.
“One has to do with the continued uncertainty of the Games, with respect to what the rules will be associated with the Games — whether there will be spectators, whether there won’t be spectators. How the Tokyo Games may impact how the Beijing Games are run. There are COVID-related insurance issues that are important to the players and the clubs and the league,” he said.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announces the 2022 All-Star Game will be played in Las Vegas. pic.twitter.com/AOnw2qffhb
— Boardroom (@boardroom) June 28, 2021
International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said he hoped a resolution can be reached with the NHL and its players to compete in Beijing, adding that the NHL currently has two schedules in place for next season, one featuring an Olympic break and another one without.
Is the NHL in or out?
Daly said that the NHL has worked out past issues with the IOC could be taken as positive news. To refresh your memory, the concerns that led to the NHL balking at competing in Pyeongchang 2018 were health insurance, travel costs, and access to marketing rights.
However, there was one issue that nothing can be done about: The NHL didn’t see the wisdom in shutting down for two weeks when the Olympics are held in Asia because the games are played in the early morning hours in North America when most people aren’t watching.
For that reason, expect Bettman and the owners to use COVID-19 as an excuse to get out of their obligation to the players to compete in the 2022 Winter Games.
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