After missing out on playing in the Olympics for a number of logistical reasons in 2018, NHL players have signed a bargaining agreement with the league and are now set to play at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
There was some speculation about US and Canadian Olympic teams missing out on the Olympics altogether for diplomatic reasons, with the speculated boycott protesting against the alleged human rights violations in China by the governing Communist Party.
All that is in the past now and it seems that everyone involved can agree that a boycott is not the best way to bring light to the issues at hand, while a strong performance in Beijing and continued mentions of the problem in the media seem more effective.
Canadian and American teams with a point to prove
Hockey has a long history of international play, with many fabled stories created on the ice over the years. Looking back over the years, we can easily remember the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union, or the American amateurs taking home the gold after defeating the “Red Army” in the Lake Placid Olympics “Miracle on Ice.”
Now, both teams will be going to China amidst the human rights violations charges and the Chinese regime being more closed and hostile than it’s been in many years. Taking home medals from the most prestigious tournament of the Olympics would be a bold statement from the NHL players.
Of course, both Canada and the US are among the favourites to win medals in the men’s tournament, with bookies like William Hill placing them both in the top four favourites to win the tournament and Canada at the top as the clear favourite for the gold.
The Chinese team is not in the running for gold, but the usual suspects like Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic will all have a lot at stake as they hope to bring medals to their respective homelands.
The NHL, as one of the world’s biggest competitions in all sports, not just hockey, has a lot to prove at the Olympics, as players return after the 2018 hiatus eager to demonstrate their quality and eagerness to win at international level, leaving their multimillion dollar contracts on hold for a while.
How different will these Olympics be?
The 2018 Olympics were not much different from those in the years past, but the ones scheduled for February next year will most certainly be.
With some restrictive measures still active, China has already announced that it will not be allowing too many people to attend the event.
What this means is that while sports teams from all over the world will come for the Olympics, foreign fans will not be allowed into the country, and the US government has pleaded with the Communist Party not to restrict the movement of international reporters.
Yet, there are fears that this is exactly what will happen and that these “Chinese Olympics” will be highly restricted for the media, fans, and everyone else outside of China. We may be able to watch, but getting involved in other ways will be difficult.
All that said, any medals brought back from Beijing will be twice as valuable and the NHL players should be used to playing in such an environment by now, considering the games played during the 2019–20 and 2020–21 season were played without fans for the most part.