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NHL withdraws from Beijing Olympics, status of hockey competition unknown

The best hockey players in the world won’t get to represent their country in China this February due to increased Covid-19 issues.

Sidney Crosby of Team Canada prepares for a face-off against Team Europe during Game Two of the World Cup of Hockey final series at the Air Canada Centre on September 29, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Andre Ringuette/World Cup of Hockey via Getty Images

Today the NHL and the NHL Players Association announced on Wednesday that players won’t be participating in the 2022 Beijing Olympics due to the recent uptick in Covid-19 infections and the Omicron variant.

The NHLPA had negotiated for the right to play in each Olympics as part of the last collective bargaining agreement. It was something an overwhelming number of players wanted to be a part of, but the public health issues became too much to overcome. Many also had concerns about the protocols that would be in place ahead for participants, that could include a 3-to-5 week quarantine for anyone that did test positive.

Those that are fully vaccinated would not be required to quarantine upon entry to the country, but will be tested daily and will be put in a “closed loop” system where they won’t have any contact with the outside world. Any breach of protocol could be cause for expulsion from the Olympics.

Team USA is scheduled to play in Group A with Canada, Germany and China.

There is no word on the status of the women’s tournament, an event won by either the USA or Canada in each iteration since it entered the games in 1998 in Nagano.

The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled for February 4-20 in Beijing, with the men’s hockey tournament scheduled for February 9-20.