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Lightning Round: Is the NHL’s participation in the Olympics in danger?

The New York Islanders’ games were postponed at least through the end of the month

Olympic Rings Appears At Shougang Park In Beijing Photo by Li Wenming/VCG via Getty Images

Last September, the NHL, the NHLPA and the IIHF finally reached a deal that allows the NHL players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The deal, however, had several conditions and one of them was the NHL’s right to withdrawn from the participation until January 10, if the COVID-19 situation got worse.

The latest NHL news has added some concerns about the NHL’s possible participation in the Olympics. Just yesterday it was announced that the league postponed the New York Islanders’ games at least through Tuesday. Since last week the Isles had several key players unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols, including their captain Anders Lee and top defenceman Ryan Pelech. According to the press release, the NHL decided to postpone their games due to “the possibility of additional cases due to spread“.

The Islanders are not the first team whose games were postponed due to COVID-19 protocol within the team. Earlier in November, three of the Ottawa Senators’ games were postponed as a result of 10 players entering COVID-19 protocols. Drake Batherson, who was one of those players, remains in COVID-19 protocol and is expected to return on December 1. Currently several players from other teams are also unavailable due to COVID-19, including the Arizona Coyotes’ Carter Hutton, the Carolina Hurricanes’ Ethan Bear and the Detroit Red Wings’ Danny Dekeyser.

The newly discovered Omikron variant of COVID-19 in South Africa is also adding some concerns. Recently the first cases were confirmed in Australia and Czech Republic. The new strain is reportedly more transmittable and has already outcompeted other variants in South Africa in a short period of time.

As of now, the NHL is planning to participate in both the Winter Olympics and the All-Star game, which is scheduled for February 5 in Vegas right before the start of the the Winter Olympics. The players expected to play in Beijing will head to China on charter flights. The league is also developing special protocols for players at the All Star game in Vegas.

In case of potential withdrawn, Hockey Canada has already arranged a “shadow team“ to replace the NHL players if necessary. Some other hockey federations, including the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, are also working on this possibility.

Curently several Tampa Bay Lightning players have been confirmed to play in the Winter Olympics: Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy (Russia), Victor Hedman (Sweden), Ondrej Palat (Czech Republic), and Erik Cernak (Slovakia). Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta are amongst potential candidates.

Lightning Links

The Syracuse Crunch have suffered a loss by the Rochester Americans. Simon Ryfors and Gabriel Dumont scored for Syracuse.

The Orlando Solar Bears have earned a shootout win against the Norfolk Admirals.

Hockey News

The full results of previous gameday.

The Ottawa Senators’ goaltender Matt Murray was placed on waivers and the Senators have claimed Adam Gaudette off the waivers.

The St. Louis Blues placed forward James Neal on LTIR.

Artemi Panarin was fined $5,000 for throwing a glove at Brad Marchand.

The Montreal Canadiens are planning some changes in their head office.