Reports: NHL players out of Olympics due to COVID-19 surge; Sidney Crosby calls it “disappointing”

nhl out of olympics
Feb 14, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) talk before a face-off during the second period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

NHL players won’t take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, multiple outlets reported Tuesday.

An official announcement is expected within 24 hours.

An agreement to keep the players home was made jointly by the league and the NHL Players Association against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases worldwide. Effective Wednesday, the league will be on pause through Dec. 26, with no games or practices and team facilities closed.

It was inevitable

In their collective bargaining agreement, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to Olympic participation in 2022 and 2026. The two sides, however, agreed to reconsider NHL players traveling to Beijing if COVID-19 disrupted the 2022 season.

“We (NHL) made a promise to the players to participate in the Olympics,” Gary Bettman said at the Board of Governors meetings. “If the players want to go, subject to if our own season is in trouble because of COVID, not to go would be a joint decision with the Players’ Association.”

As of Tuesday, 50 NHL games had been postponed, and the NHL could use part of the Olympic break for makeup games, ESPN reported.

“Sources confirm the February break in the NHL schedule, originally for the Olympics, will now be used to play make up games for all games taken off the board,” Andy Strickland tweeted yesterday.

Crosby calls it “disappointing”

nhl olympics
Jan 17, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) reacts as he talks with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the second period at the PPG Paints Arena. Pittsburgh won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Some players took the news of the expected decision hard.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of two (Olympics),” said Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who won gold medals with Canada in 2010 and 2014, per ESPN. “I definitely feel for the guys who have missed numerous opportunities. It’s not something where it’s the next year or you push it a couple of months. These are experiences of a lifetime that you don’t get very many of as an athlete.”

NHL players weren’t part of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, either — that time because of a dispute with the International Olympic Committee over insurance and travel costs. The rosters were filled by minor league players, pros from leagues such as Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League and amateur players, and the same is expected in Beijing.

The hockey tournament in Beijing is scheduled for Feb. 9-20. Olympic Athletes of Russia won the gold medal in 2018.

“It would be disappointing, that’s the best way I can describe it,” Crosby told The Athletic on Monday. “Obviously, I know from experience how special and unique the Olympics are. And not only thinking about my experience, but thinking of the guys that haven’t had the opportunity to be part of it.”

–Field Level Media contributed to this report