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NHL confirms players won't compete in Beijing Olympics

Martin Rose / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The NHL and its players' association have agreed to withdraw their participation in the 2022 Beijing Olympics as COVID-19 runs rampant across the league, the league confirmed Wednesday.

"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," 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."

The league had until Jan. 10 to opt out without facing any financial penalty.

The NHL initially committed to allowing players to go to the Olympics as part of a new collective bargaining agreement signed during the summer of 2020. In September, the league struck an agreement with the NHLPA, IIHF, and IOC to return to the Games after sitting out the 2018 event. The deal included an opt-out clause contingent on the regular-season schedule proceeding without any COVID-19 disruptions.

As cases across the league began to spike earlier this month, commissioner Gary Bettman said the decision to participate in the Games will be up to the players. The NHL's COVID situation has worsened drastically since then, as several teams have been shut down through the holidays and cross-border matchups are temporarily on hold.

The league is planning to use the Olympic break, scheduled for Feb. 6 to Feb. 22, to make up games that have been postponed.

Bettman previously stated several players had expressed concerns about the quarantine rules in Beijing. Chinese authorities also required any player who tested positive at the event to undergo a three-to-five week quarantine period in China.

A best-on-best hockey tournament hasn't occurred since the 2016 World Cup.

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