The NHL and NHLPA officially announced Wednesday that they will not send their players to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
It was an inevitable outcome after the spike in COVID-19 cases across the league led to a significant amount of postponements. The players sacrificed other things in the Collective Bargaining Agreement to participate in the Olympics, but there was a clause that allowed the league to pull out if there was a material disruption to the NHL schedule and we've approached that territory.
It doesn't make the decision any easier for players like Patrick Kane, who was already named to Team USA and probably would've been the captain.
"It’s just a tough situation for everybody," Kane said. "You always want to represent your country every time you get a chance. Felt like I would’ve had the chance to be in a leadership role this year, so it would’ve been fun to play with a lot of younger players and some great players around the league."
Kane has participated in two Olympics in the past: 2010 in Vancouver and 2014 in Sochi. He helped his country capture silver in 2010 but has never won gold, which is something he'd love to add to his already decorated resume.
The news that NHL players aren't going is especially devastating to Team USA, which was going to field one of its strongest groups ever.
"I just think in general, for USA Hockey, we would’ve put together a pretty competitive team, and that’s disappointing," Kane said. "I don’t think that’ll change four years from now, but would’ve been fun to have that opportunity and welcome the next generation of USA hockey players and be able to be part of that."
Team USA has always lacked center depth, but the emergence of Auston Matthews as one of the world's top players would have finally given them a chance to compete with other countries down the middle.
And from an entertainment standpoint, it leaves you wondering whether two of the greatest American-born players in Kane and Matthews will ever play together on the same sheet of ice.
"We stay in touch throughout the season and got a lot of respect for him as a player, how good he is at scoring goals, his shot, just his overall game," Kane said. "He’s become one of the best players in the league, so would’ve been huge to have that type of player on the U.S. team and maybe get a chance to play with him as well. Hopefully we can get a chance to play together in the future, another big tournament, and have that opportunity."
While he admits the Olympic experience wouldn't have been the same as in years past due to the restrictions in Beijing, there's no doubt Kane still wanted the opportunity to compete for a gold medal because you never know when you'll get that chance again.
"You’re excited to be able to get the chance to represent your country," Kane said. "Obviously, I’m 33 right now, so you’re hoping you can play as many as possible."