The announcement was made Tuesday by Commissioner Gary Bettman. This is what seemed to be inevitable given the number of games that were delayed and grew rapidly to 50. To make up the games that were postponed, the league will use its previously scheduled February 6-22 Olympic break.
Bettman stated, "Given recent COVID-related disruptions to the NHL's schedule,... Olympic participation [is no longer possible]" in a separate statement. Don Fehr, executive director of Players' Association, said that there was a clear path from the NHL to Beijing, but the Olympic break is now necessary to make up the games.
For a second consecutive Olympic men’s hockey tournament, international officials and national federations will need to pivot to Plan B. USA Hockey announced that it would soon announce new management personnel and coaches. Hockey Canada will likely draw on the players, coaches, and executives who participated in an international tournament held in Moscow this month.
"While we are disappointed by this NHLPA decision, we still fully understand the circumstances that led to this action being taken," International Ice Hockey Federation President Luc Tardif stated in a statement. "It was shocking to see how COVID-19 had an immediate impact on the NHL schedule. We understand that the NHL made the right decision for the safety and health of its players."
The NHL is focusing on the completion of an 82-game regular league season, which will be their first since 2018-19. The schedule was already extended through April. The playoffs will be held at the end of June. There are more than two weeks between the Olympics and the regular season.
Two versions of the NFL schedule were sent to teams after Olympic participation was confirmed in September. Because of the sheer number of postponements, the league decided to use the break to make up dates rather than move forward with the playoffs.
Although the NHL was not included in the Olympics for the second time since 1998 (the other being 1998), Bettman, Fehr, and Tardif expressed optimism for a 2026 return. As part of their collective bargaining agreements, the NHLPA and league have reached an agreement for Olympic participation.