By Cole Parkinson
Sunny South News
With plenty of COVID-19 disruptions over the past few weeks, it seems less and less likely NHL players will be participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Several teams have experienced COVID shutdowns over the past few days, and while that may not be the nail in the coffin of players heading to China in February, it certainly seems players, team management, owners, and the NHL are getting closer to saying it’s not going to happen. On top of the Omicron variant, the strict Chinese COVID protocols have to be a big concern for everyone involved. And now with tons of games needing to be made up, I’m sure the NHL is eyeing those vacant Olympic dates (Feb. 7-22) as a good opportunity to get those in before the end of the season.
Make no mistake, the league and owners want to get all 82 games in this season due to lost revenues over the past almost two years, so it’s no surprise they want to make as much money as possible. The bad news on that front is some teams have already announced reduced capacity, so even if you have a ticket, you may not get into the building.
The NHL has until Jan. 10 to decide whether or not they will participate in the Olympics and while it still sounds like they will take the full time to make that decision, I wouldn’t be shocked if over the Christmas break an announcement was made. And while I fully expect that decision to be no participation, I get it. That being said, it does suck we’re going to be robbed of best on best once again. The lack of NHL players in 2014 led to less excitement and build up for many, including myself. We haven’t seen NHL players in a best on best tournament since the World Cup of Hockey in 2016 and that really is too bad. It helps grow the game and bring in younger fans when they get to see all of the best players play for their home country. If you’re Canadian, you’re dying to see Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, and Cale Makar in the red and white. If you’re American, you have to be excited to see Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, and Quinn Hughes suit up. And you can say that about every one of the major contenders for the gold medal.
And if players don’t head to the Olympics in 2022, when would the next tournament even be? The next Olympics are set for 2026 in Italy. Is the NHL going to bring back the World Cup of Hockey any time soon? It’s been talked about hosting another edition of the tournament in 2024, but considering they cancelled the 2020 tournament, the 2024 date is not guaranteed. Either way, it would be quite a long wait until the next best on best tournament.
COVID-19 continues to be an everyday nuisance for most parts of life, and that’s no different in pro sports, and it’s certainly frustrating to still be dealing with this as we head into 2022. But, right now, that’s just the reality of the situation. No NHL players at the Olympics is definitely not ideal, but let’s hope the women’s hockey tournament provides plenty of excitement as per usual. Canada/USA in women’s hockey is always must watch and I expect it will be no different in China come February.