Dec 22, 2021 - World

NHL players won't participate in Beijing Olympics due to COVID

Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Photo: Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The NHL announced Wednesday that the league's players will not participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Why it matters: The move comes amid a surge in coronavirus infections, largely driven by the newly discovered Omicron variant, and after the league announced that it would briefly postpone all NHL games through Christmas.

  • 43 games have been postponed due to COVID-19 cases so far this season. Last week, 60 players entered the league's COVID protocols in a four-day span.
  • The league said it would use "available dates during the Feb. 6-22 window ... to reschedule games that have been, or may yet be, postponed."

The big picture: The variant has upended the sports world's sense of normalcy, as leagues scramble to contain the rapid spread of the virus.

What they're saying: "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," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

  • "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," he added.

Flashback: The NHL introduced a strict COVID vaccination policy in September and later announced that all but four players were fully vaccinated for this season.

Of note: American athletes would have needed to be vaccinated to compete in the Winter Olympics, according to the guidelines posted on the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee website.

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