Men’s hockey at the 2018 winter Olympics took place without NHL players, and that will once again be the case four years later.
“You know, I think everybody was looking forward to this,” said Kyle Connor, a forward with the Winnipeg Jets. “We made this a big part of our collective bargaining agreement as players to try to bring the Olympics back.”
And for a while, that was the plan.
The NHL did not send players to Pyeongchang for financial reasons, after sending players to the previous five Olympics, beginning in Nagano in 1998. In September, a joint agreement was reached between the NHL, the NHL Players’ Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation to send players to Beijing.
In late December, there was a new agreement: a withdrawal from the Olympics due to COVID-19.
“You grow up dreaming of winning a Stanley Cup. I’ve been able to accomplish that,” said Steven Stamkos, a forward with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “And then you grow up representing your country at the Olympics and winning a gold medal. And that’s something that I probably won’t have a chance to do now.”
The NHL scheduled a break in its regular season in February, a break that was designed to accommodate both All-Star Weekend and the Olympics. It will now be used to reschedule games that have been postponed due to COVID-19.
“It’s just a tough situation for everybody, right? You’re excited to get the chance to represent your country,” said Patrick Kane, a forward on the Chicago Blackhawks who had already been named to the U.S. Olympic team.
“Felt like I would have had a chance to be in a leadership role this year, so it would have been fun to play with a lot of younger players, some great players around the league.”