The official word came from the NHL early Wednesday morning. Their players will not be going to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. It wasn’t a surprise, but certainly a disappointment for many. A handful of Calgary Flames were likely locks for their respective rosters, and another half dozen had hopes of taking part.
But current global circumstances made the Olympic dream unattainable this year. Too many NHL games have already been postponed. And in the face of the Omicron variant, there is uncertainty as to both when and how the league fires up again after the Christmas break.
“The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate in a ‘best on best’ tournament. Accordingly, we have waited as long as possible to make this decision while exploring every available option to enable our Players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events — 50 games already have been postponed through Dec. 23 — Olympic participation is no longer feasible.
“We certainly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Beijing Organizing Committee to host NHL Players but current circumstances have made it impossible for us to proceed despite everyone’s best efforts. We look forward to Olympic participation in 2026.”
NHL to reschedule games during Olympic window
Postponed games will be rescheduled between Feb. 6 and 22 where possible, in the Olympic window. Plans are to have the NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas.
The Calgary Flames have had six games postponed because of a COVID outbreak that led to all but three active players going into the protocol in the past week and a half. The Flames facilities have re-opened and players who exit protocol are able to skate and train.
Isolated for seven of 10 days, coaching staff is unlikely to lead any organized practices before Dec. 26. Barring more postponements, the Flames and Edmonton Oilers play at the Saddledome on Dec. 27.
The 2022 Olympic saga isn’t over, with postponement of the Games a possibility. That might bode well for a number of Flames who would certainly have been donning their country’s colours in February. Jacob Markstrom, Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund were likely members of Team Sweden. Rasmus Andersson was also on the radar.
Team USA would have had linemates Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau as anchors. Dan Vladar’s early play warranted consideration for the Czech Republik.
Adam Ruzicka is a talented young Slovakian player. Team Canada longshot Andrew Mangiapane has been one of the most debated names of this NHL season.