Bettman says NHL plans to honor Beijing Olympic deal with players

Bettman says NHL plans to honor Beijing Olympic deal with players

Synopsis

The National Hockey League said Thursday it plans to uphold its end of the agreement that allows its players to participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Bettman says NHL plans to honor Beijing Olympic deal with players

Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated that the league plans to honor an agreement which will permit NHL players to take part in their first Olympics since 2014 in Socchi, Russia BRUCE BENNETT GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

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The National Hockey League said Thursday it plans to uphold its end of the agreement that allows its players to participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Speaking at the conclusion of the league’s board of governors meeting in Florida, commissioner Gary Bettman said despite “a whole host of issues” he isn’t going to prevent the players from taking part in the Games.

“There are a number of open issues, and I know the Players’ Association has concerns about them,” Bettman said. “But ultimately, we will honor (the agreement), as we promised.

“The players for the most part seem to continue to be saying they want to go. I don’t think that this is going to be the ideal Olympic experience in terms of the lockdowns in the Olympic Village and everything else that’s going on. But again, we made a promise.”

Bettman said with less than 60 days left before the opening ceremony, they are still waiting to hear back from the Beijing Organizing Committee on Covid-19 protocols, including what happens if a player tests positive while in China.

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The NHL’s commitment to taking part in the Olympics was included in the collective bargaining agreement signed ahead of the coronavirus pandemic-delayed 2019-20 regular season.

NHL players participated in five Olympics from 1998-2014 but not in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

The NHL is scheduled to break from February 3-22 for 2022 Olympic hockey tournament.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly also stressed that the league could pull out of the Games at any point because of Covid-19, but January 10 is the deadline to do so without a financial penalty.

The league was also asked about players who might be uncomfortable with China’s human rights record, which includes long-standing political tensions between Beijing and Taiwan and allegations of genocide against Muslim minority groups.

“Ultimately, this is going to have to be a player’s decision,” Bettman said.

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Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner said he declined an invitation to play for Sweden for mental health reasons in anticipation of strict Covid-19 protocols.

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