Last summer, the National Hockey League and its players announced that they would participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympic Games. The only hurdle that the two parties needed to clear was the pending agreement between the NHL, NHL Players' Association, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation.
Following that announcement from the NHL and its players, IIHF president Rene Fasel chimed in, saying he didn't foresee any problems with the IIHF and International Olympic Committee reaching an agreement with the NHL and NHLPA to have the players in the Beijing 2022 and Milano Cortina 2026 Games.
However, the NHL and NHLPA are now two months past a reported May deadline to reach a solution on the NHL's participation, and as the league begins preparation for the 2021-22 season, they're up against time on whether to honor the commitment they made last year.
During NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's annual state of the league press conference Monday, the subject of going to the Olympics next year was a topic that he addressed.
"It's reaching the point where we're getting concerned about the impact on next season because of the uncertainty," Bettman said.
The main issue with the NHL and NHLPA is the ongoing issue of COVID-19, as there are concerns regarding the length of potential quarantines when arriving in China. It could potentially mean the season has to stop sooner than they want to allow players to comply.
Furthermore, there are other concerns such as insurance and whether or not players' families can attend the event in Asia.
"We've deferred to the Players' Association to try to work through those issues, and that continues, as I said, to be a work in progress," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "But as [Commissioner Bettman] alluded to, time is running very short, so hopefully we'll have some resolution soon."
With the NHL already blowing past its initial target date, the league has drafted two schedules for the 2021-22 season. One includes an Olympic break, and the other is without it. The NHL intends to reveal the final version on July 23 before the entry draft.