An announcement on whether the NHL will send its players to the Beijing Olympics is expected to come soon. In the meantime, there’s the issue of whether they’re enthusiastic to make the trip.
Judging by Jacob Trouba and Mika Zibanejad, potential members of the U.S. and Swedish teams, not so much.
“You dream of playing in the Olympics, but at the same time, it’s a tough situation to go into,” Trouba said following Rangers practice on Monday. “Lot of risk. It’s not really the Olympics you dream of as a kid. Without your family, without being able to see other athletes, without being able to go to other events, it’s different.”
The main sticking point for players is the potential of a three-to-five week quarantine in China if they test positive while overseas. Additionally, with the number of postponements across the league over the last week, the planned break for the Olympics could be used to make up games, though that could be complicated by some arenas having booked other events for those dates.
The league has stuck to saying it will let the players decide whether to go, and until the last couple of weeks, it seemed the players were all for doing so. But with the emergence of the Omicron variant, and the reality that the protocols in Beijing seem to be as strict as advertised, there’s an air of hesitancy.
Neither Trouba nor Zibanejad went as far as to say they wouldn’t go. But neither gave an answer in the same area code as enthusiasm either.
Zibanejad, twice, used the past tense in reference to the Games.
“I feel like it’s been a lot of uncertainties,” Zibanejad said. “Lot of unknowns. Obviously the Olympics is a big thing for any type of athlete to go to. For me it would have been my first.
“Obviously, something I was looking forward to.”
Artemi Panarin practiced on Monday after missing Friday’s loss to Vegas with a lower-body injury. Gallant said he would have played against Montreal had that game occurred.
With Wednesday’s game now off because of COVID-19, the Rangers will have 10 days between games, their next contest coming on Dec. 27 against the Red Wings. The team will practice on Tuesday before going home for the holidays early.
“The more games are postponed, the more you’re gonna play down the road,” Zibanejad said. “So I don’t see it [as a silver lining]. But it is what it is, really.”
Ryan Strome missed practice, taking a maintenance day.