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NHL players will not participate at 2022 Beijing Olympics due to COVID-19: reports

Click to play video: 'NHL, players’ association announce 4-day shutdown ending Boxing Day'
NHL, players’ association announce 4-day shutdown ending Boxing Day
WATCH: NHL, players’ association announce 4-day shutdown ending Boxing Day – Dec 21, 2021

Players from the National Hockey League will not participate at next year’s Beijing Winter Olympic Games amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, according to media reports.

The decision by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association comes as COVID-19 infections in the league have exploded and 45 games have been postponed since Dec. 13, the Canadian Press reported citing an anonymous source Tuesday.

Two people with direct knowledge of discussions told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the league informed the NHL Players’ Association it was exercising its right to withdraw from the Beijing Games because there was a material disruption to the season.

Multiple sources also told the ESPN that the NHL and NHL Players’ Association had come to an agreement to not participate in the men’s hockey tournament in Beijing.

An official announcement is yet to be made.

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Read more: NHL, players’ association announce 4-day shutdown ending Boxing Day

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With several players testing positive for COVID-19 that has forced dozens of games to be postponed in recent days, the league decided to pause the season early for the holidays.

A four-day shutdown goes into effect Wednesday until Boxing Day.

COVID-19 related reasons have already caused 50 NHL games to be suspended.

Of the 50 games postponed, 45 have occurred over the past two weeks with the Delta and Omicron variants spreading across North America.

More than 15 per cent of the league’s 700-plus players are in virus protocol, a list that continues to grow.

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NHL scraps weekend Canucks games as spread of Omicron shuts down B.C. events

The NHL and NHLPA officially committed to sending players to China for the 2022 Games back in September, but that agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation allowed either party to withdraw if COVID-19 conditions rendered participation “impractical or unsafe.”

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If confirmed, this will not be the first time the NHL has pulled out of the Winter Games.

The league’s players also did not participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea because of a scheduling conflict and disagreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over player compensation.

Click to play video: 'Beijing Olympics organizers express ‘regret’ over NHL players not attending'
Beijing Olympics organizers express ‘regret’ over NHL players not attending

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The Beijing Olympics are scheduled to take place from Feb. 4 to 20, 2022.

Several countries, including Canada, have announced a diplomatic boycott of the games over concerns of China’s record of human rights abuses.

A diplomatic boycott refers specifically to non-athletes.

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If NHL players do not compete at the Beijing Games, the Olympic roster will feature amateur players and professionals playing in leagues outside of the NHL.

— with files from the Associated Press, The Canadian Press.

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