Gary Bettman, National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner, has stated that US participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics is going to have to be a players’ decision, according to ESPN.
The NHL Players’ Association, (NHLPA) has agreed that athletes may participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympic men’s hockey tournament. However, with the ongoing COVID situation – namely Chinese restrictions and political and safety considerations – participation is now being questioned.
ESPN shared Bettman’s statement after a governor’s meeting last week, which read: “We have concerns. We’ve expressed those to the players’ association. We see that a number of players are now also expressing concerns, and we’ll have to see how this all plays out.”
Furthermore, Bettman stated that in choosing not to attend the competition that a joint agreement will be required with the association. There have been five games pushed back due to outbreaks in the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders.
The league’s condition remains the same if the 2021-22 regular-season schedule is impacted by coronavirus postponements, and if players do not go to Beijing, NHL arenas have used the dates to book other events which may cause huge overlap issues.
Additionally, ESPN has also reported that there was not a discussion of a domestic-based replacement tournament if player participation doesn’t occur, and that the NHL has claimed that it doesn’t yet understand the length of quarantine for a positive test in Beijing, or rules in China.
Bettman has explained that if a player decides to attend then it will be following a NHL and NHLPA agreement that ensures the players will be looked after in terms of COVID exposure.
More positively, it has been reported that the league is projecting revenues to reach $5.2 billion this season, which is a rise from how they were trending prior to the pause in the 2019-20 campaign , again, affected by the virus.
The revenue bump is expected to trigger a $1 million increase in the NHL salary cap for next season, bringing it to $82.5 million, and Bettman also stated last week that ‘the business of the game has come back strong’.
The commissioner put this down to new revenue opportunities created with the NHL PA as well as national partnerships and renewals as reasons for the spike in revenue.