The first game of the 2022 Winter Olympics men's hockey tournament is scheduled for Feb. 9. It's still not certain that NHL players will be competing in the Beijing Games.

Here's a look at the issues, concerns and challenges facing the NHL and the players just two months away from the Olympics, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to loom over everything, courtesy of ESPN NHL reporters Emily Kaplan, Kristen Shilton and Greg Wyshynski.

 

When does the NHL have to make a final call about the Olympics?

Emily Kaplan: When the NHL and NHLPA came to an agreement with the IOC and IIHF about player participation in the Olympics, they added in a caveat: The NHL side has until Jan. 10 to opt out without any penalties. (As a reminder, the Olympics are scheduled to begin on Feb. 3.) The NHL still could technically opt out later than that, but there would be financial consequences.

Since everyone is watching their finances right now -- the NHL, still recouping from missed revenue during the pandemic, has maintained a flat salary cap -- the expectation is that we'll know definitively on Jan. 10 or before.

 

What's the latest you're hearing about the decision?

Kaplan: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman never wanted to send players to the 2022 Olympics. NHL players had participated in a string of five straight Olympics before the league decided not to send players to the 2018 Games in PyeongChang. Bettman feels that there isn't enough upside for the league; between the disruption of schedule, risk of players getting injured, and unfavorable licensing and marketing agreements with the IOC and IIHF, Bettman and many NHL owners don't think the juice is worth the squeeze.