(NEXSTAR) — Men’s hockey at the 2018 winter Olympics took place without NHL players, and that will once again be the case four years later.
“Everybody was looking forward to this,” said Kyle Connor, a forward with the Winnipeg Jets. “We made this a big part of our collective bargaining agreement as players to try to bring the Olympics back.”
And for a while, that was the plan. The NHL did not send players to Pyeongchang for financial reasons, after sending players to the previous five Olympics, beginning in Nagano in 1998. In September, a joint agreement was reached between the NHL, the NHL Players’ Association, and the International Ice Hockey Federation to send players to Beijing.
In late December, there was a new agreement: a withdrawal from the Olympics due to COVID.
“You grow up dreaming of winning a Stanley Cup. I’ve been able to accomplish that,” said Steven Stamkos, a forward with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “And then you grow up representing your country at the Olympics and winning a gold medal. And that’s something that I probably won’t have a chance to do now.”
The NHL scheduled a break in its regular season in February, a break that was designed to accommodate both All-Star Weekend and the Olympics. It will now be used to reschedule games that have been postponed due to COVID.
“It’s just a tough situation for everybody, right? You’re excited to get the chance to represent your country,” said Patrick Kane, a forward on the Chicago Blackhawks who had already been named to the Olympic team. “I would have had a chance to be in a leadership role this year, so it would have been fun to play with a lot of younger players, some great players around the league.”