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NHL players to skip 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing due to COVID-19 concerns

NHL players to skip 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing due to COVID-19 concerns
The NHL had until Jan. 10 to opt out of participating in next year's Olympics without financial penalties. File Photo by Andrew Wong/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The NHL and its players' union reached an agreement Tuesday to not participate in the men's hockey tournament at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing because of growing COVID-19 concerns.

The league and the NHL Players Association previously negotiated Olympic participation in the 2022 and 2026 Games into the most recent collective bargaining agreement after NHL players skipped the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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The lone caveat for participation in the Beijing Games -- scheduled for February 2022 -- was if the current NHL season was "materially impacted" by COVID-19 postponements. As of Tuesday, the league has dealt with 50 postponed games this year due to coronavirus outbreaks and has paused its season through Christmas.

The NHL had until Jan. 10 to opt out of participating in next year's Olympics without financial penalties. The NHLPA previously said it expected a decision on participation to be made before that deadline.

ESPN, the New York Times and the Detroit Free Press reported that a formal announcement on the decision could come as soon as Wednesday.

The league's attention will now shift to using the scheduled break for the Olympics -- from Feb. 6-22 -- to play rescheduled games. The NHL All-Star Game is still scheduled to take place Feb. 5.

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The Olympic hockey rosters will now be filled by a mixture of amateur players and professionals competing in leagues outside of the NHL. This was the setup for teams playing in the Pyeongchang Olympics, where Russia won gold.

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