NHL to schedule a break for the 2022 Winter Olympics; player participation not yet guaranteed

The NHL's 2021-22 regular-season schedule will include a break for the Winter Olympics in Beijing, commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday.

The Olympic break is reportedly scheduled from Feb. 5 to Feb. 22, 2022. The schedule, which will be released Thursday, will include a caveat that NHL participation in the 2022 Winter Games isn't yet guaranteed.

"I don't believe there will be an update on the Olympics by the time we release the schedule," Bettman said ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. "We'll do what we need to do under the circumstances to release the schedule, and then if things change, we'll do what needs to be done."

Opening ceremonies for the Beijing Games are scheduled for Feb. 4, 2022. Preliminary-round games in the men's ice hockey tournament are scheduled to begin around Feb. 9.

The NHL has announced that the 2022 All-Star Weekend will be held in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena "during the traditional midway point of the regular season." The NHL All-Star Game will be the last on-ice event before the Olympic break, but it's unclear whether it's considered part of that break.

After skipping the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, the NHL agreed to allow its players to return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026 as part of the four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement it struck with the NHL Players' Association last summer. But that agreement didn't guarantee NHL players would represent their nations in the Winter Games. The league still needs to iron out issues with the International Olympic Committee that the NHL claims prevented the players from going in 2018.

"We negotiated in good faith with the Players' Association last summer," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last month. "We agreed that if the conditions were right and we could reach an agreement on all the material issues that we would commit and support going to the Olympics. That remains our position."

Before the Stanley Cup Final, Bettman said there were "real concerns about whether or not it's sensible to have our players participating and us shutting down for an Olympic break." Among those concerns: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and how it might impact the Beijing Games.

"With the continued uncertainty with the virus, with the Games being halfway around the world, it's not necessarily an ideal Games to go to," Daly said.

Sources told ESPN last week that the agreement between the NHL and the IOC was still being worked on, but the anticipation is that a deal could be struck in late July.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.