Disappointed Rangers understand NHL pulling out of Olympics

Several players on the Rangers were affected by the NHL’s announcement last week that it was pulling its players from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing due to COVID-19 concerns. 

Adam Fox, the league’s reigning Norris Trophy winner, was expected to be named to Team USA, but the Long Island product will miss the opportunity to play on the world stage. 

“Yeah, of course. You understand everything that’s going on, but I think almost every hockey player dreams of playing in the NHL and also representing their country at the Olympics,” Fox said after Sunday’s practice. “So it’s obviously disappointing, but you understand the circumstances and you can take it for what it is.” 

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad already had been one of three players named to the Swedish team, while Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also had strong cases to be considered for the American squad. Russian teammates Artemi Panarin and Igor Shesterkin and young forwards Kaapo Kakko (Finland) and Filip Chytil (Czech Republic) also were likely candidates to represent their respective countries. 

Adam Fox (left) and Gerard Gallant (right) both agree that the NHL made the right decision pulling out of the Olympics.
Getty, Charles Wenzelberg

“It’s obviously a tough decision but it’s the right decision,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “I think every guy is disappointed and every coach is disappointed, but I think everybody to a man would say it’s the right decision. What can you do?” 

With goalie Alexandar Georgiev placed in the health and safety protocols, Shesterkin was late getting on the ice for practice while undergoing testing. Practice started with a cutout of a goalie in one net and equipment manager Tim Webb in the other goal until Shesterkin arrived to chants of his first name by his teammates and a series of sticks taps along the boards. 

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“First time I’ve ever done that, that’s for sure,” Ryan Strome said of shooting at a practice cutout. “It was nice, Igor joined us and obviously got a round of applause. It’s good. 

“I mean, listen, it’s different times, and we have to adapt. It’s not the same as it’s always been. We understand that.” 

With defense partner (and roommate) Ryan Lindgren and defenseman Patrik Nemeth also entering protocols, Fox worked in practice alongside Libor Hajek. 

“Everyone who’s gotten it so far has felt fine. A lot of asymptomatic guys,” Fox said. “I haven’t spoken to Ryan, we just got back today from where we were, but from what I know, everyone is doing fine.”