June 19, 2024

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Column: NHL skips Olympics again, cites COVID-19 uncertainty | Wellbeing & Health and fitness

Initially, the U.S. diplomats and a handful of allies reported “no.” Now it is the NHL. Some celebration this is shaping up to be.

It was just negative luck that Beijing landed the Wintertime Video games in what turned out to be the time of COVID-19. But the selection to go in advance as scheduled rests squarely with the hosts and their Intercontinental Olympic Committee cronies. Here’s hoping that like most of the persons who marry exclusively for cash, they wind up getting to get paid just about every cent.

The NHL is the most anodyne of the main sports activities leagues, so not like the diplomats who bowed out, it was not producing a political statement about China’s grave and diverse human rights abuses. But just like the IOC, the league’s abiding curiosity has always been its individual base line. That is why the league skipped the 2018 Wintertime Game titles in Pyeongchang, an option that is not out there to all the lugers, curlers, ski jumpers and even figure skaters who require the consideration the Olympics brings to shell out hire in the course of the 3 a long time in amongst.

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But this was constantly heading to be an effortless selection for commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL players union. The Olympic overlords spend them zilch for displaying up and blow a three-months-or-so hole in the league’s regular-season agenda, which — to set it mildly — is previously a mess mainly because of COVID. Fifty games had been postponed through Tuesday evening, and there is a league-huge pause in effect till future 7 days. Assuming the recently tightened protocols return some evaluate of management to the league’s routine-makers, that three-week window to make up online games could appear in mighty useful.

Who is aware, the NHL could even make your mind up to go in advance with its All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas, which would slide on the initially two days (Feb. 4-5) of the Olympics. And would not that be some wicked counterprogramming?

“We understand the selection,” Olympic broadcaster NBC mentioned in a statement Tuesday, “but the Olympics stay the best hockey match in the entire world no matter of no matter whether the gamers are from the NHL or other elite leagues about the world.”

On the moreover side, the women’s tournament may pick up some viewers and the scramble to fill the men’s Olympic rosters with minor leaguers, college or university gamers and even the occasional beer-league star provides China’s woeful hockey team with an option.

Just a couple of months ago, the Global Ice Hockey Federation was nonetheless wrestling with whether to permit the crew engage in. Olympic hosts are usually extended the privilege of fielding a staff in just about every sport, but China was so poor that new IIHF president Luc Tardif had his doubts.

“Watching a staff becoming crushed, 15-, is not superior for anybody, not for China or for ice hockey,” Tardif said in September.

Now the Chinese will be in a position to get in touch with a 7- last score a moral victory.

To be fair, it’s a undesirable offer for just about most people. The hosts get rid of deal with, NBC loses one of its 3 most important draws — determine skating and alpine getting the other two – and the relaxation of us will overlook out on what has been a speedy, broad-open up variation of the activity that is greater than just about anything else the NHL places on throughout the normal year.

Regrettably, the gamers reduce most of all. A generation of younger stars denied their debuts in 2018 now will have to wait around right up until 2026 at the extremely the very least among the them are Canada’s Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, American Auston Matthews and Sweden’s Victor Hedman.

“I’m nonetheless a person which is seeking to go participate in in the Olympics,” McDavid mentioned. “But we also want to make positive it’s protected for everybody. For all the athletes, not just for hockey gamers.”

But the Edmonton Oilers’ captain also conceded the 21-working day quarantine in a Chinese facility for everyone who tests constructive at the game titles — aspect of the protocol mandated by Beijing’s organizing committee — was “unsettling.” Las Vegas goalkeeper Robin Lehner experienced currently declined the probability to represent Sweden, outlining in a textual content that acquiring that possibility hanging above his head “is not excellent for my psychological wellness.”

However it was the NHL’s fiscal health and fitness that mattered most. The Olympics lifted hockey’s profile notably in Salt Lake Town in 2002 and especially Vancouver in 2010, exactly where community hero Sidney Crosby’s overtime intention to beat the United States for the gold medal (yet again) drew virtually 35 million viewers, around 2 times the normal viewers for the Masters or the NCAA basketball finale. But the debut of NHL players at the Nagano Games in 1998, as properly as their appearances in 2006 (Turin) and 2014 ended up played and televised at odd several hours for North American audiences, which are the league’s bread-and-butter.

The Beijing Video games will be 13 hours ahead of the U.S. Japanese time zone. For all the other factors that weighed on his conclusion, all Bettman had to do was look at the check out on his wrist to confirm he produced the proper just one.

Much more AP Winter season Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/wintertime-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports activities

Far more AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

More AP Asia sports activities: https://apnews.com/hub/sporting activities-asia and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports activities

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