In an ideal world, most NHL players would go to the Olympics. And while the NHL is amenable to that, complications are mounting.
COVID-19 outbreaks are making their way through multiple NHL teams, and recent reports about COVID-19 guidelines seem to be scaring some players off — or at the very least giving them pause. Basically, if a player tests positive while in China, they would be subject to a 3-to-5-week quarantine. That would keep them away from their families and their teams during key moments of the season.
So, it’s a double-edged sword. Players who want to play on the biggest stage, but not necessarily at the expense of potentially putting their families or team at risk.
“First and foremost, I think for me the last two Olympics were special events and I have amazing memories of it and it’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, who is a shoo-in for Team Canada, said Tuesday. “That’s one thing, as an athlete you want to compete against the best, and if you do have that opportunity, obviously, you want to represent your country. It is concerning when you hear about the 3-to-5 week quarantine, having to stay back and stay in China, so I think there are a lot of questions right now that need to be answered.
“As an athlete, I think you’re torn, because obviously you want to be there, and as I said, it’s the biggest sports event in the world. That being said, it’s a different situation and a different year, you want to make sure you have all the answers before you can really answer that question.”
The Bruins could have multiple representatives at the Olympics. Bruce Cassidy is on Canada’s coaching staff, and Bergeron and Brad Marchand are locks to make the team. Charlie McAvoy all but certainly will get the call for Team USA, while David Pastrnak already has been named to the Czech Republic team. There are some more distant options, like Linus Ullmark and Jakub Zboril, as well.
Chatter about if it’s the right idea to go appears to be ramping up in dressing rooms across the league.
“I can’t say that I’ve had deep conversations about it so far, but we’re starting to talk about it,” Bergeron said. “But everyone feels the same, I think it’s more you want to be there, but you want to make sure it makes sense for everybody and that’s it. I’m sure we’ll have some clarity at some point soon and can make a sound decision.”
This situation is one that might not have a clear resolution for a while longer. But the national teams can’t be idle right now in the event NHL players do go to the Olympics, so coaching staffs are planning accordingly.
“I think it’s going to be an issue for the people that are traveling over there,” Cassidy said. “What is the protocol if you test positive, how long are you isolated, where are you isolated, can you get (taken) out of there to where you isolate in your own country? I think those are questions every athlete and support staff will have, so it is a concern, for sure.
“For me, we’re going ahead as planned, I talked to (Jon Cooper) the other day, he put some stuff together. I was supposed to meet with him when Tampa was here, obviously that didn’t happen. I’ll talk to Pete DeBoer (Tuesday) about a few things. … We’re still full speed ahead in terms of our preparation. It’s not that in depth, but it is ongoing, in fact we did some work yesterday for Coop. At the end of the day, maybe that’s something that’s clearer as it comes, but I don’t know if that’s possible. If COVID is still everywhere then, then obviously decisions will be made and we’ll just follow them.”
The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin Feb. 4 and end Feb. 20.