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Ice hockey matches at 2022 Olympics in China to be played without NHL players

MOSCOW, December 22. /TASS/. Ice hockey players from the US-based National Hockey League (NHL) will not be participating in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China, the league’s press office said in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement said that the decision was made “because the League’s regular-season schedule has been disrupted as a result of increasing COVID-19 cases and a rising number of postponed games.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was quoted as saying that “The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate in a ‘best on best’ tournament.”

“Accordingly, we have waited as long as possible to make this decision while exploring every available option to enable our Players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games,” NHL Commissioner Bettman continued.

“Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events – 50 games already have been postponed through Dec. 23 – Olympic participation is no longer feasible,” the NHL executive stated.

“We certainly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee [IOC], the International Ice Hockey Federation [IIHF] and the Beijing Organizing Committee to host NHL Players but current circumstances have made it impossible for us to proceed despite everyone’s best efforts. We look forward to Olympic participation in 2026,” Bettman added.

Vladislav Trtiak, the president of the Russian Hockey Federation (RHF), said commenting on the NHL’s decision that the men’s competition in the ice hockey tournament would have been much more interesting if NHL players took part in them.

“It is very sad that the best of ice hockey players would be unable to come as it could have been a great Olympic holiday,” Tretiak said in an in interview with TASS. “The Olympic medal is always the medal of the Olympic value. However, this is how our life goes on.”

“On the other side, players of the Kontinental Hockey League [KHL] have chances of traveling to the Olympics,” Tretiak continued. “No matter who participates in the Olympics, I am sure that each team will be battling for the win in Beijing and we will see a good game of ice hockey.”

Alexey Zhamnov, the head coach of the Russian national ice hockey team, told TASS that the Olympics tournament in China could have been more interesting with the participation of NHL players.

“We hoped until the very last moment that NHL players would go there [to Beijing],” Zhamnov said. “The tournament would have been more interesting from the point of sports point of view, but the Olympic medal is still the Olympic medal and we keep preparing.”

The ice hockey competition at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing will run between February 9 and 20. The national ice hockey federations had to announce at least three names of their players before October 8, who were set to travel to China for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Eleven out of 12 national teams (except hosts China) already announced the names of their three selected players.

The press service of the Russian Hockey Federation (RHF) stated on October 8 that Russia’s NHL hockey stars Alexander Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevsky were the first players to enter the roster of their national team for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China.

At the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea’s PyeongChang, the Russian national ice hockey team played under the status of the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) and eventually won the Olympic gold defeating Germany 4-3 in sudden death overtime of the final match.

2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing

The 2022 Winter Olympic Games in the Chinese capital of Beijing are scheduled to be held between February 4 and 20, while the Paralympic Winter Games will be held on March 4-13.

During the 128th IOC session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2015, Beijing was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games making the Chinese capital the first city ever to host both the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games (in 2008) as well as the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games (in 2022).

Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics in a tight race, beating Kazakhstan’s Almaty in 2015, by chalking up 44 votes against its rival’s 40.

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