NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics is "ultimately going to have to be a players' decision."
The NHL and NHLPA negotiated to have players participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympic men's hockey tournament, per their latest collective bargaining agreement. But concerns about COVID-19 protocols in Beijing, along with other political and safety considerations in China, has left participation in the Olympics this coming February somewhat in question.
"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," Bettman said Friday after the second day of the NHL's board of governors meetings.
Bettman said that a decision not to go to the Olympics would require a joint agreement with the NHLPA. The league's main caveat remains if the 2021-22 regular-season schedule is impacted by COVID-19 postponements. So far, there have been five games postponed amid mini-clusters of outbreaks on the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders.
The NHL's agreement with the players states that any material disruption of their season could result in pulling out of the Olympics. "If it became clear that we couldn't reschedule without doing something else, including some portion of the break," Bettman said.
The NHL board of governors discussed what to do with the Olympic break if the players do not go to Beijing. The challenge is that NHL arenas have used those dates to book other events despite having been advised not to do so. There was no discussion of any sort of domestic-based "replacement tournament" if player participation in Beijing doesn't happen.
The NHL said it doesn't yet understand what the duration for quarantine is for a player who tests positive for COVID-19 in Beijing, nor whether that player will need to quarantine in China.