With the NHL having already withdrawn its participation in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics back in December, the dream of having the game’s biggest stars compete for gold on the international stage is long dead.
The IIHF Council, however, met this past week to discuss, among other things, whether or not players who are signed to NHL contracts will be permitted to compete in this year’s Games regardless of the league’s standing on the matter.
The answer? An emphatic ‘No’. Not that that should be a surprise or anything.
“The IIHF will not assent to NHL players participating in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in direct breach of their current playing contract with their NHL club,” said the IIHF in a statement released Thursday morning.
“Respecting player contracts is a fundamental principle of the IIHF International Transfer Regulations.”
This effectively puts an end to the possibility of players simply leaving their NHL clubs in the coming weeks to participate in the Olympics and subjecting themselves to league discipline, or retiring for a short period of time in order to be eligible to go.
While these scenarios seem farfetched, players have indeed been reportedly discussing them as loopholes to allow them to live out their Olympic dream in the aftermath of the NHL’s withdrawal.
What the IIHF’s ruling does, as well, is make it more difficult for players who currently play in the AHL but are signed to NHL deals to participate, too.
This stipulation applies primarily to top prospects, those of whom are developing with their club’s AHL affiliate this season but have signed an NHL entry-level contract. Players who fit this mold will likely be required to obtain permission from their NHL team before heading to Beijing, with the decision being based on what is best for that prospect’s development.
Unfortunately, the IIHF has put the final nail in the coffin of NHLers suiting up at the 2022 Winter Games.