NHL given August deadline to declare participation in 2022 Winter Olympics
Commissioner Gary Bettman must decide before the final three nations qualify in late August
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has given the NHL a deadline for declaring whether they will participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to NBC Sports. IIHF president Rene Fasel is asking for the NHL's answer before the final three nations qualify for the Olympic men's hockey tournament, which takes place in late August.
Fasel is hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2018 Winter Olympics, when the NHL gave an answer just 10 months before the games got underway. All of the national teams ended up featuring players that didn't currently play in the NHL due to the league's decision.
"Especially the North American teams, the U.S. and Canada, they had some problems to find the players and to build up a good team going to the Olympics," Fasel said. "If there is a no [from the NHL on Olympic participation], these teams should have time to prepare competitive teams to go to the Olympics in 2022."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has mentioned in the past that having a midseason break will be a tough task for the league.
"There is no news to report," Bettman said back in November. "I don't want to sound like a broken record on the subject, but I think going to the Olympics is a challenge for us. I know the players love representing their countries. I know that the players like going. I know that the players that don't go like having a break in the middle of the season. But from our standpoint, we have found going to the Olympics to be incredibly disruptive to our season.
"For us, at best, it's a mixed bag. And, again, it has some pretty material downsides in terms of what happens to our season."
Fasel does expect Bettman to ultimately say yes because of the "opportunity to present the game of hockey" to the world.
The NHL last participated in the Winter Olympics in 2014, when the games were held in Sochi, Russia. Canada defeated Sweden in gold medal game thanks to a roster that included the likes of Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews and Shea Weber. The United States was defeated, 5-0, by Finland in the bronze medal game.
It sounds like it'll take some convincing from the IIHF for Bettman to consider shutting down the NHL for a few weeks. The clock is ticking.
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