Another day, another round of COVID-related issues for the NHL — and the sports world overall, of course.
Reports have been pouring in all day that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed that their players will no longer be playing in next year’s Winter Olympics, citing ongoing concerns with the pandemic:
The NHL & NHL Players Association have agreed players will not be participating at the upcoming Beijing Olympics, sources confirmed to The Athletic.— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) December 21, 2021
◻️Why not participate?
◻️Why this isn't surprising
More from @PierreVLeBrun @RussoHockey & @seangentillehttps://t.co/6AQipsRRSW
It’s a move that’s felt inevitable since the emergence of the Omicron variant and its rapid spread across the world. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane — who would’ve been a lock for the Team USA roster — spoke about the decision after Tuesday’s practice:
Patrick Kane on the Olympics:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) December 21, 2021
"I don’t know if it would’ve been a true Olympic experience this year, being in a bubble and all the worries going over there."
"[But it] would’ve been fun to have that opportunity and welcome the next generation of USA hockey players in."
The good news, from a hockey perspective, is that there is an effort being made to play NHL games during the three-week gap on the schedule that was being reserved for the Olympics:
Teams have also been told plan is for them to get at least a one week break in the new revised schedule. Similar to the bye weeks league did a couple years back https://t.co/6G3vrO8PSV— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) December 21, 2021
In other COVID news, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, with announcements that included a new policy related to entry of public buildings in the city. Blackhawks’ home games appear to be part of the new requirement which takes place on Jan. 3 of next year, when several categories of public places in Chicago will now require proof of vaccination upon entry:
Getting vaccinated and boosted is essential to protect the health of yourself, your friends, and your community.— Chicago Department of Public Health - CDPH (@ChiPublicHealth) December 21, 2021
There is vaccine available all across the city. Find yours at https://t.co/Kx6nROGjAg.
In September, the United Center announced a policy of requiring proof of vaccination OR a negative COVID test. No formal confirmation from the team or the United Center has come yet, but it appears the latter of those two options has been taken away.
In uplifting news, Blackhawks forward Jujhar Khaira was back on the ice Tuesday, skating with his teammates for the final practice before the team adjourns for the holiday break:
Derek King on Jujhar Khaira: “To have him dressed and skating in a practice, I’m excited. We’re not going to throw him back into the fire. We’ll wait and make sure he’s 110% before he puts on that Hawks jersey for a game again.” #Blackhawks https://t.co/LVK7zsjxTP— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) December 21, 2021
Let’s end with a laugh as Patrick Kane scores on Marc-Andre Fleury during a shootout drill at practice then expertly trolls his veteran teammate a few seconds later: