The Boston Bruins were likely to send their two-best forwards to the 2022 Winter Olympics in February if NHL players were allowed to participate.
The league and the NHLPA, for a variety of reasons related to COVID-19, officially announced last week that NHL players were not going to the Olympics. The last Winter Games in which the men's ice hockey tournament featured NHL players was 2014.
It was a disappointing development for any player who expected to be in the mix for an Olympic roster spot, and especially tough for players whose last chance to be part of that experience was likely 2022.
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Bruins forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are in that group.
“I would've gone. It would have been my last chance to experience it," Bergeron told reporters Monday. "I was there twice, I was able to live it. I feel for the guys who haven’t had a chance and this might've been their last chance to go. I really do. It’s disappointing as an athlete, and as a competitor. You want to be a part of those events. I was fortunate enough to live it..."
Bergeron added: “I was definitely thinking about it. I had some question marks about going over with what’s going on in the world with the outbreaks and all that and leaving my family behind. I had a discussion with my wife, and it was my last chance and I wanted to be a part of it.”
While missing out on the Olympics is certainly tough for Bergeron, it's even more frustrating for Marchand. Bergeron noted that he's been to the Olympics before. In fact, he has two gold medals from Canada's triumphs in 2010 and 2014.
Marchand has never played in the Olympics. A huge part of that has been unlucky timing. He's become the best all-around left wing in the world, and one of the best players at the position for many years. Unfortunately for Marchand, that rise really took off following the 2014 Olympics. He would've been an easy selection for Hockey Canada if NHL players participated in the 2018 or 2022 Olympics.
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So it was understandable when he expressed his frustration at the fact that NHL players were not going to travel to the upcoming Winter Games.
"I know at the end of the day, they don't care about the Olympics, they don't make money on it, and that's ultimately what this is," Marchand told reporters Sunday. "It's a business and we're an asset. Let's just call a spade a spade."
He later added: "It's extremely disappointing that the players aren't going. I think guys have worked their entire lives to put themselves in position to compete at that level and that opportunity. It should be guys' decisions whether they choose to go or not, regardless of what's happening in the world. If the Olympics are on and they're playing, the best players in the world should have that option. It's tough to deal with."
Marchand will be 37 years old in 2026. It's quite possible he could still be an effective player at that age, but given the immense talent and depth in the Canadian hockey pipeline, earning an Olympic roster spot four years from now would be a huge challenge.
Olympic hockey provides some of the most exciting sports competition in the world. It's really too bad that NHL players won't be taking part in those games in February, even though it was ultimately the correct decision given the information available to the league and players' union.