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NHL players won’t go to China for Olympics because of virus concerns

NHL players won’t go to China for Olympics because of virus concerns..  Faced with the prospect of long quarantine periods should they test positive for COVID-19 during the Olympics, NHL players reached the decision to pull out of the Beijing Games.

NHL players won't go to China for Olympics because of virus concerns----
NHL players won’t go to China for Olympics because of virus concerns—-

 

The league and its players association reached the agreement Tuesday, multiple news outlets reported, with an official announcement from the NHL expected.

Participation in the 2022 Beijing Games, set for Feb. 4-20, and the 2026 Olympics in Italy was negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement after NHL players didn’t go to the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. There was language in that CBA that provided for a bailout over COVID-19 concerns.

Chinese officials said Olympians testing positive in Beijing could face quarantines of up to five weeks at government facilities.

The United States used American pros playing in Europe and college players for the 2018 Games, which were won by the Olympic Athletes from Russia. Current Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov, playing at the time in the Kontinental Hockey League, scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Germany.

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Wild general manager Bill Guerin was set to be GM of the U.S. team if NHL players participated, and that team would have been finalized on Jan. 1.

Instead, the U.S. will presumably use a fallback plan and field a team similar to 2018, when future Wild forwards Ryan Donato and Jordan Greenway were among the best players. USA Hockey executive John Vanbiesbrouck, not Guerin, would likely lead the selection process for that team. Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan is set to coach Team USA, but that also might change.

Kaprizov would likely have been on the OAR team again. Three other Wild players — Kevin Fiala (Switzerland), Jonas Brodin (Sweden) and Joel Eriksson Ek (Sweden) — are among their countries’ top players as well. Nico Sturm was a strong candidate for the German team, although he sounded an early alarm last week about the Games.

“Just with how things are going, I just don’t see how,” Sturm said Thursday. “I would obviously love to go, but I’ve got to be realistic about it, too. I’m not going to get my hopes up too high … Most of the guys are thinking the same way. They’d love to go, but it just seems so complicated at the moment that it’s hard to see that it’s going to happen.”

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On Monday, before the Wild’s loss in Dallas, Brodin said, “I don’t know what to say. Of course, growing up, it’s always a dream come true to play for your national team, especially Olympics.”

The “backup” Olympic team from the U.S. would likely include some Minnesotans, especially if the roster is dotted with college players. Whether college players would be willing to risk a long quarantine, however, is another question. CBC projected the goalie of a non-NHL Team Canada would include former Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, a three-time All-Star now on a tryout contract with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, and former Wild center Eric Fehr, who plays in Switzerland.

The NHL had until Jan. 10 to stay home without a financial penalty.

The league had planned a break from Feb. 6-22 for the Olympics. Teams could be free to reschedule, but many arenas booked events and venues might not be available. A long break after the Feb. 5 All-Star Game in Vegas is still likely.

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The regular season was set to end April 30, but more than 40 games have been postponed because of COVID-19 outbreaks on teams, so it could last longer.

The NHL is starting its Christmas break on Wednesday to limit the spread of the coronavirus on teams. All NHL facilities will be closed for four days, from Wednesday through Christmas Day. There were 131 NHL players in the league’s protocols by Tuesday morning, and 45 games have been postponed over the past eight days.

The Wild is scheduled to return to practice on Dec. 26, then fly to Winnipeg for a game Dec. 27 against the Jets. That game would appear to be in jeopardy, especially with the Wild preparing for the league’s marquee event, the New Year’s Day Winter Classic at Target Field.

 

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