By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26
In light of the outbreak of COVID-19 throughout professional sports in North America, the NHL and NHLPA announced on Wednesday, December 22, that they will not be participating in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Since the NHL will not be participating, teams will be using the Olympic break time frame (Feb. 6-22) to make up the postponed games that resulted from the outbreak. The Bruins have had their fair share of canceled games, with six postponed games (Dec. 18-29).
As of December 26, Boston has four players on the COVID protocol list, including Brandon Carlo, Taylor Hall, Charlie Coyle, and Oskar Steen. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were on the COVID protocol last week but were recently cleared to participate in team practices while awaiting their next game. Both Bergeron and Marchand were essentially locks to make the Canadian Olympic team before the NHL and NHLPA withdrew. Unfortunately, this may have been both Bergeron’s (age 36) and Marchand’s (age 33) last chance of representing Canada in the Winter Olympics.
“In just talking with a number of guys leading up to the announcement, they were disappointed.” Bruins president Cam Neely said when asked about the Bruins’ players that were likely going to make their respective country’s teams. “Some players were thinking they were going to make a team, could be their last chance to play in the Olympics.”
After returning to practice on Sunday, Marchand spoke to the media about his frustration and disappointment regarding the NHL and NHLPA’s withdrawal from the Olympics. “It’s extremely disappointing that the players aren’t going,” Marchand said. “I think guys have worked their entire lives to put themselves in a position to compete at that level, and in that opportunity, it should be the guy’s decision whether they choose to go or not regardless of what’s happening in the world. If the Olympics are on and they’re playing, then the best players in the world should have that option, so it’s tough to deal with.”
“At the end of the day, they really don’t care about the Olympics.” Marchand continued. “They don’t make money on it, and that’s ultimately what this is, a business, and we are an asset.”
If you’re an NHL fan, you have to feel for guys like Brad Marchand and Steven Stamkos, who have been adamant about representing their country in the Olympics, but won’t have the opportunity to do so this year. While some NHL players’ window of opportunity to participate in the Winter Olympics is closing, younger stars such as David Pastrnak (Czech Republic) and Charlie McAvoy (United States) have yet to hit their prime years and still have the chance in the future.
Pastrnak (age 25) and McAvoy (age 24) shared their emotions and opinions on not being able to go to Beijing to the media on Thursday.
“It’s just tough, you know,” Pastrnak said. “I know that for European players, growing up as a kid, that’s your dream, to make it. It’s very sad that this is technically the second Olympics in a row that you’re missing as a player.”
Pastrnak also mentioned he understood why the NHL and its players won’t be attending the Olympics. “It’s just the world we’re living in. It’s really unfortunate because the Olympics don’t happen every single year. It’s really frustrating and sad, but at the same time, I understand the situation we are in, and the whole world is.”
This would’ve been McAvoy’s first time participating in the Winter Olympics since his NHL career began in 2017. “Disappointment, for sure. Definitely a little bit of sadness,” McAvoy stated. “I think it’s something that, if given the opportunity, I was absolutely going to go. I really think I was going to enjoy every second of it. I’ve dreamed of that for a long time. So, disappointing. That’s really the only way to describe it.”
The next Bruins game scheduled is against the Buffalo Sabres on New Year’s day, but the NHL, along with all professional sports, is still battling COVID issues amongst its players and staff. The NHL will release updates in the coming days whether the Bruins play the Sabres on January 1, 2022.