NHLPA Says Players Wary of Participating in Olympics over Unclear COVID-19 Protocols

Erin WalshDecember 12, 2021

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 09:  A view of the NHL crest on a net prior to the start of the first period between the Montreal Canadiens and the Los Angeles Kings at Centre Bell on November 9, 2021 in Montreal, Canada.  The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The NHL Players' Association says players are uncertain about participating in the Beijing Winter Olympics because they haven't received definitive answers about COVID-19 protocols for the Games, NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said, per ESPN's Greg Wyshynski.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also said at a Board of Governors meeting on Friday that it's "ultimately going to have to be a players' decision" on whether they participate in February's Olympic Games, per Wyshynski.

"We're waiting on an awful lot of information to come from the IOC and the Chinese. We still don't know what the COVID situation will be as we get closer," Fehr told ESPN.

While players will undoubtedly have a significant say in whether they compete in the Olympics, Fehr added that the NHL could pull out of the Games entirely if the 2021-22 schedule is affected by COVID-19 postponements and the Olympic break is needed to make up games.

The International Olympic Committee has already provided new protocol information to athletes, per ESPN. Any player who tests positive has to produce two negative tests that are 24 hours apart. In addition, a player can potentially be quarantined anywhere from 21 days to five weeks.

According to ESPN, the quarantine length "is one of the biggest concerns for players" because they could be stuck in China for an uncertain amount of time and could also lose out on pay for missing games and practices after the Olympic break in February.

The NHL skipped the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018 after it couldn't reach an agreement with the IOC on coverage of player insurance, transportation costs and other accommodations.

Before that, NHL players had participated in every Olympics since 1998.

If the NHL does end up participating in the 2022 Games, the United States, the Olympic Athletes from Russia, Canada and Finland are considered gold-medal contenders.

The last time NHL players participated at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Canada took home the gold medal, led by Sidney Crosby, Carey Price and Drew Doughty.