NHL-Olympic decision expected in days

The National Hockey League (NHL) and its players’ association on Sunday said they were in discussions and expect to make a decision in the coming days about whether to participate in the Beijing Winter Olympics amid an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

The outbreaks have led to the postponement of 27 games as of Saturday, with at least 12 more expected to be postponed through Dec. 23.

“Given the disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events… and the continued uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID pandemic, the NHL and NHLPA are actively discussing the matter of NHL player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, and expect to be in a position to announce a final determination in the coming days,” the two bodies said in a joint statement.

The league said it would, however, forge ahead with its 2021-22 regular season.

“Although there has been a recent increase in positive COVID test results among players, coaches and hockey staff, there have been a low number of positive cases that have resulted in concerning symptoms or serious illness,” the statement said.

“Therefore, the NHLPA’s and NHL’s medical experts have determined that, with virtually all players and club hockey staff fully vaccinated, the need to temporarily shut down individual teams should continue to be made on a case-by-case basis.”

Due to concern about cross-border travel and given the fluid nature of federal travel restrictions, all games involving a Canadian-based team playing a U.S.-based team from Monday, Dec. 20 through the start of the holiday break on Dec. 23, will be postponed and rescheduled, the joint statement said.

The Beijing Games run from Feb. 4-20.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Davis)

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