The NHL is sending its players to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. This will be the first time that an international ice hockey tournament has been held in China.
When NHL players signed a new collective bargaining agreement in 2020, they got a huge win: the league agreed to let them compete in the Olympic Games in 2022 and 2026. NHL players have all battled to get back to the Olympics. For many people, being able to represent their country on such a prestigious platform is a dream come true. What about the players who aren’t chosen? It usually entails a two-week break in the midst of the season. Nobody likes it.
There was no mention of Olympic participation in the previous CBA. As a result, when the league and its owners chose to boycott the 2018 Games due to scheduling disruption and injury risks, players had little recourse.
Despite the fact that the players won this fight, the new Olympic CBA provision was always subject to one condition: the NHL and NHLPA had to strike an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee. Those discussions are never easy.
The four parties had been talking on and off for many months, avoiding some arbitrary deadlines, and eventually came to an agreement on Friday. Here’s a look at what was discussed at those talks, what the Olympic ice hockey tournament in 2022 could look like, and how it might all be called off again.
What were the main points of contention between the two parties?
The NHL is still opposed to sending players to the Olympics, but since the players consented, the league bargained on their behalf in good faith.
Expanded media and commercial rights were one of the things the NHL sought out of an Olympic deal. The NHL detailed some of the items it sought in a February 2020 meeting, including NHL logos and ads in Olympic games, as well as the opportunity to utilize Olympic highlights on NHL Network or NHL.com, all of which it believed would help promote the game. The NHL was pleased with the outcome of the meeting’s talks.
However, the environment has altered since then, with the NHL moving away from NBC, which also broadcasts the Olympics. In the end, the NHL was denied additional media rights. The IOC and IIHF have no desire to give the league any further concessions. The IIHF and IOC understood they had power, according to several engaged in the talks, since NHL players have been vocal (both personally and publicly) about their desire to compete.
The IIHF and IOC have previously agreed to cover NHL players’ travel and insurance expenses. If players are permitted to bring guests, the IIHF and IOC will also pay the expenses of the visitors.
Another hot topic was COVID-19 insurance: What happens if a player develops COVID during the Olympics and it affects him later? The NHL and NHLPA identified a COVID insurance carrier, but it was too costly, and the IIHF and IOC refused to pay it. It will now be up to each participant to buy their own insurance. Most NHL players, according to sources, would probably forego the extra insurance because of the stringent procedures.
All Olympic players will be obliged to get the COVID vaccination; however, there may be extremely limited exceptions on a case-by-case basis. According to sources, “the vast majority” of NHL players have already been vaccinated.
Is this a done deal?
Yes, but there’s a catch: the NHL and NHLPA agreed to an opt-out provision that allows them to withdraw from the Olympics if COVID circumstances deteriorate or otherwise represent a danger to players’ health and safety.
Another reason the NHL and NHLPA may withdraw is if game cancellations impact the 2021-22 NHL season. This provision may be used by the league if it believes it has to utilize the Olympic break to make up games in order to complete the season and recover as much hockey-related income as feasible. Although the wording is unclear, the opt-out date is expected to be in early January. So that’s something to keep an eye on.
How will the Olympic break be structured?
The NHL will take a vacation from games from Thursday, February 3 through Tuesday, February 22. With or without Olympic participation, the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, was set to take place on February 4 and 5.
Olympians attending All-Star Weekend will fly straight from Las Vegas to Beijing on Sunday, February 6.
If, for whatever reason, NHL players do not wind up attending the Olympics, the league has a backup schedule ready.
When was the last men’s hockey “best-on-best” tournament?
The last time NHL players made up the bulk of lineups was during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which was hosted in Toronto in September. While the tournament had its moments — who can forget Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews’ thrilling 23-and-under “Team North America”? — it was still a preseason event, as shown by the gameplay.
Canada won the World Cup, as it had done in the two previous “best-on-best” Olympic events in Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014). (2014). In 2010, Team USA was awarded silver after losing in overtime to Sidney Crosby and the Canadians; and in 2014, Team USA was awarded bronze after Canada beat the Americans in the Sochi quarterfinals.
The NHL decided not send any players to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, breaking a five-year streak of allowing its players to compete. The league highlighted club owners’ continued resistance to an Olympic break during the regular season, as well as the IOC’s decision not to pay participation expenses such as travel, insurance, and lodging for players and visitors.
The NHL apparently didn’t believe the South Korean market had enough value to warrant games being played at inconvenient times in North America. China, on the other hand, is a different story.
Team North America, a group of under-23 talents including Auston Matthews (No. 34) and Connor McDavid (No. 97), competed in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, but they’ll be skating for their home nations in the 2022 Games. Getty Images/Andre Ringuette/World Cup of Hockey
What is the format for the men’s hockey competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics? What will the lineups be like?
This is the same format as the previous three Winter Games. Each of the three groups consists of four teams. Following group play, the 12 teams are ranked by record, and the top four teams (usually the three group winners and the best second-place team after tiebreakers) proceed to the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams are ranked based on their record and compete in qualification-round playoff games in order to progress to the quarterfinals.
The winners of the semifinals will compete for the gold medal, while the losers will compete for bronze.
By October 15, Olympic teams must submit their “long lists” of players. By January, the preliminary playing rosters will be revealed.
Which teams have qualified for the tournament?
The three teams for the Winter Olympics in 2022 have been revealed. In the first round, nine teams qualified for the tournament; Denmark, Slovakia, and Latvia qualified in a set of qualifying games held Aug. 26-29. China, as the host country, is guaranteed a place. Here are the groupings, along with their IIHF rankings:
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Canada is a country that has a (1) Germany (6), USA (6) (7) China is a country that has a (12)
Comite Olympique Russe (2) Czech Republic is ranked fifth, Switzerland is ranked eighth, and Denmark is ranked ninth (11)
Finland is a country in Northern Europe (3) Sweden is a country in northern Europe (4) Slovakia is a country in Central Europe (9) Latvia is a country in Europe (10)
What are the COVID procedures for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing? How do they stack up against the 2020 Tokyo Olympics or the Stanley Cup playoffs?
For the last 1 1/2 years, NHL players have been used to COVID procedures, which include daily testing, hotel isolation, masks, and social distance within venues. This is particularly true for players who spent the 2020 playoffs in the “bubbles” of Toronto and Edmonton. The Olympic limitations will be quite similar to those in place, but there won’t be a Tim Horton’s truck in China.
The Tokyo Olympics served as a direct model. Almost no one was allowed to see the proceedings. At the Games, everyone was obliged to wear masks at all times and maintain a social distance. Athletes who did not stay in the Olympic Village were housed in hotels approved for them. They were not permitted to use public transit to attend events, and instead had to rely on special transportation supplied to them. From how competitors may be replaced to disqualification criteria in team sports, the IOC established sports-specific rules for position tests.
The Beijing Olympics are anticipated to go much beyond Tokyo’s rules and regulations. The New York Times reports that organizers stated last summer that they would remodel 39 venues to guarantee that athletes “had virtually no interaction with officials, fans, or media,” and that those groups are also segregated from one another. “All-day armpit thermometers with small transmitters to raise the alert if someone develops a fever,” it said.
Protocols are still being worked upon between the Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee. “All indications are that the whole Games — venues, the Village, places to dine, etc. — will be put in a very tight bubble maintained by the Chinese government,” according to a letter handed out by NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr. According to Fehr, “There are expected to be significant restrictions on where players can go even within the bubble (no walking or sightseeing), with whom they can socialize (only those on their regular contact list, possibly not even other athletes in the Village), and a slew of other requirements, including daily COVID testing, social distancing, mask wearing, and frequent temperature checks. Players will very certainly be forced to keep daily activity logs and wear GPS tracking devices to help with contract tracing and procedure compliance.”
For the Olympics in February of next year, no procedures have been set yet. Questions regarding how testing will be handled and quarantine requirements for travel remain unanswered.
The nhl olympics beijing is a sports event that will take place in 2022. It is the first time the NHL has participated in an Olympics since 1998.
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