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The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association have agreed to not participate in the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rise in cases in the league.

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Update 11:50 a.m. EST Dec. 22: Don Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, confirmed the decision Wednesday in a statement.

“Until very recently, we seemed to be on a clear path to go to Beijing,” Fehr said. “COVID-19 has unfortunately intervened, forcing dozens of games to be postponed this month alone. No matter how much we wish it were not the case, we need to utilize the Olympic period to reschedule these games.”

Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL, said officials waited until the last possible moment to pull out of the Beijing Olympics to honor players’ desires to represent the U.S. at the Olympics.

“Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events — 50 games have already been postponed through Dec. 23 — Olympic participation is no longer feasible,” he said. “Our focus and goal have been and must remain to responsibly and safely complete the entirety of the NHL regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs in a timely manner.”

Original report: A person with direct knowledge of the decision confirmed the league’s Olympic withdrawal to The Associated Press early Tuesday evening. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been formally made.

According to WPXI, reports identified the current COVID-19 surge as the root of the issue. In turn, the league will reportedly use the time previously slated to accommodate the Beijing Olympics to make up 2021 games that had to be postponed.

The Daily Faceoff was first to break the news with the official announcement expected Wednesday, Frank Seravalli said.

The announcement will be issued once the NHL and the players association notify the International Olympic Committee.

This would have been the first time NHL players would have been in the Olympics since 2014.

On Monday, the NHL announced that it was pausing the season starting Wednesday for Christmas week with players reporting to teams on Sunday for testing and practice and games starting on Dec. 27, The Associated Press reported.

So far 49 games have been postponed for the 2021-2022 NHL season, the AP reported.

About 15% of the more than 700 players in the NHL are under COVID-19 protocols.

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