It’s official. What we all essentially knew but waited for official word is now a fact as the NHL players are officially out of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
That means Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will not lead Team Canada. In the final act of a star-crossed year, former Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will not get to take the pipes for Team Canada, nor will Evgeni Malkin get the chance to represent Team Russia.
The Penguins had several potential candidates for Team USA, including Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was the Team USA head coach, and former Penguins AGM Bill Guerin was recently named the general manager for Team USA.
UPDATE: ESPN first reported the decision on Tuesday afternoon, and the Associated Press confirmed the report near 6 p.m. EST Tuesday. The NHL PR released the following statement Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.
NHL announces that there will not be an Olympic break, NHL Players will not be able to participate in 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 22, 2021
The last Olympics in which NHL players participated was in 2014. The league did not allow players to play in 2018 when the games were held in South Korea, meaning players will have to wait 12 years between appearances in 2026.
The NHL began its holiday break several days early because of the spike in COVID cases. The Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New Jersey Devils game on Tuesday was postponed, and the early holiday break postponed the Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers game Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Numerous NHL teams have been paused for a week or more because of excessive COVID positive results, including the Calgary Flames, which had absences that numbered in the teens. The NHL used the Flames situation to learn more about the omicron COVID variant and concluded that omicron, unlike the previous COVID strains, could be spread among players on the ice.
The NHL will likely make up many of the postponed games during the scheduled three-week February hole in the NHL schedule created to accommodate players in the Olympics. The break is from Feb. 6 through 22. The NHL All-Star game is still scheduled for Feb. 5 in Las Vegas.
As part of the new CBA negotiated on the back of the 2020 bubble playoffs, the NHL promised a best effort to allow NHL players to participate in the 2022 and 2026 Olympics. However, as PHN noted on Tuesday, in 2026, it is unlikely many of the great players, including Malkin, Fleury, Alex Ovechkin, and Patrice Bergeron, will participate.