NHL not going to the Olympics…again


Andrew Forsyth, Sports Writer

The opportunity of competing for your country in the Olympics is one that every hockey player dreams of. Even as an NHL player the dream is still there. The ability to bring home gold on the global stage is one that many players cherish.

Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, and Alex Ovechkin…will not be participating in the Olympics. Auston Matthews? No…what about Steven Stamkos? Nope. The NHL has decided to not participate in the 2022 winter Olympics.

For Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, this was their last chance at being able to participate in the Olympics again for their country. Crosby is 34 and Ovechkin is 36. So by the time 2026 arrives, both players will most likely be retired-and if not- well, they will be way past their prime and probably not named to the roster.

Looking past Ovechkin and Crosby, think about McDavid and MacKinnon. Both players are in the primes of their careers and were poised to be electric on the global stage. Instead, they’ll be watching at home on TV. By the time the next winter Olympics roll around in 2026 MacKinnon will be 30 and McDavid will be 29. That is not to say they won’t still be in their primes. They’re both still going to be at the top of the league in 2026 and I am willing to bet that. Although to not have them in an Olympic games that would be an NHL return to the Olympics since 2014 in Sochi is a travesty.

In my opinion, the talent of the NHL is at an all-time high. Not to say that Olympic hockey is going to be unbearable or hard to watch but, who wouldn’t want to see a line of McDavid, Crosby, and Mackinnon. Or a defensive pairing of Kris Letang and Cale Makar. The Olympics was the one time where the best of the best teamed up with the best to face the best. Now what we have is an Olympic team of young prospects and old veterans who don’t have a place in the NHL.

Some of the best memories of watching hockey have come from the Olympics. Sidney Crosby’s golden goal against team USA to win Canada gold in 2010. Yeah, it resulted in a US loss but that’s the kind of moment the Olympics are made for. Or even when TJ Oshie put the US team on his back in the shootout shooting, not one time, not two times…but SIX TIMES for team USA. Scoring on four of those six he led team USA to victory in the eighth round after a miss by Russian Evgeni Malkin.

The NHL is being cautious about the Covid rules in China. I understand that reasoning. However, many players have spoken out against the decision to not go to Beijing this year.

Tampa Bay Lightning center and captain who would have represented Canada in the games had this to say.

“This year with what’s going on in the world, it’s a little more understandable,” Stamkos said. “But the last Olympics where we weren’t able to go because of different issues with the NHL, now it just stings, even more, knowing that for some of the older guys, this is probably their last chance.”

Stamkos, who is 32, will be 36 by the time the Olympics come in 2026. Stamkos has a history of injuries and has already won two Stanley Cups so he may even be retired by the time the next Olympics are here. So even guys who aren’t super old may have seen this as a last chance to win gold. His teammate Victor Hedman as well may have seen his last chance to represent Sweden be taken away and a whole generation of players may have missed their last chance. Players as well like Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall also spoke out against the decision saying it is a missed opportunity for the NHL.

Patrick Kane, who would have been representing team USA, was one of the three players announced to the team that had this to say about the NHL’s decision to not participate.

“It’s just a tough situation for everybody,” he said. “You’re excited to be able to get the chance to represent your country. I’m 33 right now, so you’re hoping you can play in as many as possible. But I don’t know if it would’ve been a true Olympics experience this year, with being in a bubble and with all the worries going over there.

“I was fortunate to play in Sochi, and Vancouver was just unbelievable. I don’t think the Olympic experience will be even close to comparable to what we had there in 2010. [But I] felt like I would’ve had the chance to be in a leadership role this year, so it would’ve been fun to play with a lot of younger players and some great players around the league.”

And third Victor Hedman who was set to make his Olympic debut had this to say about the decision.

“That’s sad. It’s something we have been looking forward to for a very long time. It’s out of our control what’s going on in the world. We were preparing for a battle in February in China but, as I said, it looks like it’s not going to happen, so it’s a bummer to us to not be able to go. It’s going to hurt for a while, but, at the end of the day, you know, safety and everything.”

Players are disappointed but also understanding. Although the fans don’t get to see a best-on-best tournament like we had all hoped. Although there is a chance for that as the NHL and NHLPA announced on Feb. 3 2022 that they have met and are planning to have a World Cup of Hockey set for 2024. Meaning the fans and players will get the best-on-best tournament they’ve wanted.

Sadly for the players, it isn’t as big an opportunity or stage as is the Olympics but it is a chance to play for your country. Hopefully, the tournament happens and is just as entertaining as we want it to be.

So…the NHL is not going to the Olympics for the second time in a row. People can riot and revolt and argue about it all they want but the decision was made and will stay. It is unfortunate but the NHL is putting safety first before anything else. Hopefully, in 2026, it will be a different story and we will instead be making our predictions for which NHL players lead their countries to gold. Hopefully, it’s the USA. But that is four years away and who knows what can happen between then and now. For now, we look forward to the rest of the NHL season and the quest for the cup. And to be honest that’s not a bad substitute. Who doesn’t love playoff hockey?

Original Quotes Sources
The Score
Chicago Sun Times
NBC Sports