How NHL pulling out of 2022 Beijing Olympics affects Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Free Press

As much fun as it would have been to see select Detroit Red Wings compete at the NHL level,the sensible thing as the coronavirus rages was for the best hockey players in the world to stay in North America.

The league and the NHL Players Association made it official Wednesday, announcing NHL players will not participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. By doing so before Jan. 10, there’s no financial penalty.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement that, “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. 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.”

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The decision was made as the number of games postponed by players testing positive over the past week skyrocketed. When cross-border games were postponed Sunday — the same day the Wings were shut down through Dec. 26 — that triggered enough of a disruption to the schedule to give the NHL an out clause on spending February in Beijing.

Instead, schedule makers are scrambling to fit in games as buildings allow.

“Certainly, the players and hockey fans are quite disappointed,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said in a statement. “But playing a full 82-game season this year, something the pandemic has prevented us from doing since the 2018-19 season, is very important. We expect that NHL players will return to the Olympics in 2026.”

The Wings only had one home game, Dec. 20 against the Colorado Avalanche, postponed. The Dec. 23 game at Minnesota was postponed when the Wings paused their season after multiple players and members of the coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. Since Dec. 15, those who have entered pandemic protocol include players Robby Fabbri, Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith, Carter Rowney, Alex Nedeljkovic, Filip Zadina, Pius Suter, Sam Gagner, Joe Veleno, Adam Erne and Jordan Oesterle, and head coach Jeff Blashill and assistant coach Alex Tanguay. A member of the support staff is also in quarantine.

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Larkin, 25, was slated to serve as an assistant captain for Team USA at the 2022 Games, a role he has performed at the last two World Championships. A product of the U.S. National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Larkin has worn the USA sweater at five World Championships and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Seider, 20, was named to Germany’s preliminary team in October, before the start of the season. Since then he has cemented what a good choice he was, with 21 points in 31 games.

Raymond, 19, was not on Sweden’s initial list of possible candidates but his performance has made him an obvious choice. He has 10 goals and 18 assists in 31 games. His 28 points rank behind only Victor Hedman (31) and William Nylander (also 31) among Swedes in the NHL.

Filip Hronek was a candidate to represent Czechia, as he has done at multiple international events.

At least the Wings who were Beijing bound are all young enough that there will be Olympic participation in their futures. The NHLPA negotiated participation through the 2026 Games as part of the last collective bargaining agreement.

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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