NHL announces 2022 event calendar; Olympic participation uncertainty

The NHL announced Monday its event calendar for the 2021-22 season, one that will feature a regular schedule beginning in the “first half” of October, according to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

First up, the Wild will host the 2022 Winter Classic at Target Field on January 1 against the Blues. The game was originally set to take place this past New Year’s Day, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the second outdoor game for both teams.

While the NHL doesn’t know yet if players will be participating in the Beijing Olympics next February, there will be an All-Star Game. NHL All-Star Weekend will take place in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena. No dates or details were announced, but the NHL Skills event will also be part of the weekend.

After playing the role of guest at the 2020 Winter Classic in Dallas, the Predators will host the Lightning on Feb. 26 in the 2022 Stadium Series game at Nissan Stadium. This will be Nashville’s second-ever outdoor game and the first one for Tampa Bay. Once puck drops, 27 NHL teams will have participated in regular-season outdoor games.

While not set in stone, the NHL will be looking to host another Heritage Classic game in Canada at some point next season.

Carolina was to host a Stadium Series game this season, but that was another event postponed due to the pandemic. Bettman said that the Hurricanes will host a game at some point in the future.

“We were very much looking forward to having an outdoor game in Carolina, and we will schedule another one at some point,” he said.

In draft news, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the 2022 NHL Draft will take place in Montreal.

Olympic uncertainty

Potentially on next season’s event calendar is the Winter Olympics. Bettman was asked about whether the 2021-22 NHL schedule, which will be released in late July, will feature a break for Olympic participation. He said he did not know because a deal has not been worked out between the league, NHLPA, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee.

“It’s reaching the point that we’re getting concerned about the impact on [the 2021-22] season because of the uncertainty,” Bettman said.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly added that it remains a “work in progress” and “all parties are engaged.” They both reiterated the league’s long-held stance against participation, and included the uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. But a promise was made to the player’s union during Collective Bargaining Agreement talks last summer that “if conditions were right” the league would give the green light for players to go to Beijing.

“We have real concerns about whether it’s sensible,” Bettman said. “We’re getting to be on a rather short timeframe.”

“Time is running short, so hopefully we’ll have some resolution soon,” Daly said.

NHL COVID-19 numbers

The NHL also revealed some statistics on the past 15 months following the league pause in March 202. There have been 1,077 games played since the beginning of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Over 350,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered to players and staff. There have been 55 games postponed and 132 games rescheduled with 217 players ending up on the COVID-19 protocols list. Finally, the total number of players with confirmed positives is currently at 119.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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