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NHL players to skip Beijing Olympics due to COVID-19

Posted December. 23, 2021 08:01,   

Updated December. 23, 2021 08:01


The U.S. National Hockey League’s announcement that its players will not participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics has poured cold water on the excitement for the winter games slated to be held next year. Ice hockey is one of the most popular winter team sports, dubbed as the “flower of winter sports.”

American sports channel ESPN reported Monday that the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association agreed not to participate the Beijing Olympic Games, amid rising concerns of the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

The NHL has already postponed 50 games in 2021-2022 regular season due to the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is a change of the initial plan of taking a three-day Christmas holiday break to a pause of the regular season from Wednesday to Sunday. ESPN reported that the NHL will soon publicly announce its decision on Olympic participation in 2022 as it can opt out of Olympic participation without financial penalty if it makes a decision on participation until Jan. 10 next year.

The NHL has participated in every Games from the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but it didn’t participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, citing little economic benefit and a tight schedule. The League initially announced that it would participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, a decision which appeared to be conscious of the 1.3 billion Chinese market, but it has reworked the plan and decided to skip the Beijing Olympics and go to the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics.

As the Beijing Olympics tickets will be exclusively sold to spectators residing in mainland China, there will be no significant economic impact, such as a reduction in ticket sales, following the NHL’s announcement not to participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, but the Games’ reputation and viewership would seem to decline inevitably.

Dong-Wook Kim creating@donga.com