NHL finalizes deal to send players to 2022 Olympics

·4 min read

The NHL has announced it will be sending players to the Olympic Games for the first time since 2014.

In an agreement finalized between the NHL, International Ice Hockey Federation, and International Olympic Committee, the 2022 Beijing Games will see a true best-on-best men’s tournament.

“I know that I can speak for hockey fans around the world when I say that we absolutely welcome the decision to bring back best-on-best ice hockey to the Olympics,” said IIHF President René Fasel. “We had many constructive discussions, and a lot of hard work was put into making this happen within the time we set out for ourselves, and I want to thank all parties involved for their support and commitment.”

“We understand how passionately NHL Players feel about representing and competing for their countries,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “We are very pleased that we were able to conclude arrangements that will allow them to resume best on best competition on the Olympic stage.”

As part of the 2020 NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league promised the players’ union it would green light participation at the 2022 and 2026 Olympics should a deal be worked out with the IIHF and IOC. This agreement is only for the 2022 Games in February.

After five consecutive Olympics featuring NHL players, the league decided against sending players to PyeongChang, South Korea for the 2018 Games. Top players in other leagues around the world did play and the tournament ended with the Olympic Athletes from Russia winning gold over Germany in overtime. Canada won bronze while the U.S. finished seventh.

Canada, U.S. grouped together

Following the conclusion of Olympic qualifiers, here are the men’s groups heading to Beijing:

Group A: United States, Canada, Germany China
Group B: Russian Athletes, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark
Group C: Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Latvia

The U.S. will be coached by Mike Sullivan of the Penguins, while Canada will see Jon Cooper of the Lightning behind their bench. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is leading the management team of the Americans and Doug Armstrong of the Blues is heading up the Canadian group.

A schedule will be released in the coming weeks with the gold medal game taking place Feb. 20. Games will be played on NHL-sized surfaces and feature NHL officials.

“It’d be right up there with winning the Stanley Cup,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid told NBC Sports this week about winning Olympic gold with Canada. “Having the ability to play for your country at the Olympics and a best-on-best tournament, there’s nothing better than that. Being able to do that would be something to check off of the bucket list. And if we’re lucky enough to win a gold medal, [it’d be] so special.”

COVID-19 concerns

There are two parts of the agreement that deals with the current COVID-19 pandemic. The first is all players participating in the Olympic tournament must be fully vaccinated. Also, if conditions worsen as February approaches, the NHL and NHLPA have the ability to opt-out of the tournament if regular season games are canceled due to outbreaks and there is no ability to reschedule.

Roster announcements

National teams will submit their “long lists” of players by Oct. 15 with final rosters announced in January. USA Hockey has previously announced its Olympic teams on the day of the NHL Winter Classic.

There will be no in-person orientation camps.

All player contracts will be insured by the IIHF or their national federations. There will be no insurance to cover COVID-related illnesses. The IIHF will have a $5 million fund to cover any lost salaries for players who contract COVID while at the Games and who were following protocols.

All-Star Game to serve as Olympic send-off

When the NHL released its 2021-22 schedule in July, it was a version that included an Olympic break should an agreement be reached. Now that it’s final, the 2022 NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas on Feb. 4-5 will serve as a send-off for Olympians. The two-week break will last from Feb. 7-22 with NHL regular season games resuming on Feb. 24.

The 2022 Olympic Games from Beijing, China will air on the networks of NBC.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL finalizes deal to send players to 2022 Olympics originally appeared on NBCSports.com