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NHL, NHLPA agree to take 2022 Olympics break

May 28, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly speaks with media before game one of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly speaks with media before game one of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

NHL players are returning to the Winter Olympics in 2022 in Beijing.

The league and the NHL Players’ Association announced a joint agreement Friday with the International Ice Hockey Federation to take a break in the 2021-22 regular-season schedule to accommodate the players’ participation.

This will be the sixth time NHL players have competed in the Winter Games. The first time was at Nagano, Japan, in 1998, and the most recent was at Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

“We understand how passionately NHL Players feel about representing and competing for their countries,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “We are very pleased that we were able to conclude arrangements that will allow them to resume best on best competition on the Olympic stage.”

The Beijing Games are scheduled to run from Feb. 4-20, 2022.

Friday’s agreement allows for a later decision to withdraw depending on current COVID-19 conditions.

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“I know that I can speak for hockey fans around the world when I say that we absolutely welcome the decision to bring back best-on-best ice hockey to the Olympics,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a news release. “We had many constructive discussions, and a lot of hard work was put into making this happen within the time we set out for ourselves, and I want to thank all parties involved for their support and commitment.”

NHL players did not participate in the 2018 competition in PyeongChang, South Korea, meaning the 2022 event could mark the Olympic debuts for current stars like Connor McDavid (Canada), David Pastrnak (Czech Republic), Sebastian Aho (Finland), Nikita Kucherov (Russia), Victor Hedman (Sweden), Leon Draisaitl (Germany), and Auston Matthews (United States).

“Representing their country in the Olympics is important to the players, even in these uncertain times,” said Don Zavelo, NHLPA general counsel. “The players look forward to pulling on their nation’s hockey sweater at the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as they compete for the gold medal.”

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–Field Level Media