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20 Dec, 2021 15:20

Hockey fans claim Russia is about to be gifted Olympic gold in China

Hockey fans claim Russia is about to be gifted Olympic gold in China

Hockey fans have reacted to the possibility of NHL players not traveling to the Winter Olympics, with some claiming the move will boost the Russian team's chances of winning gold.

The 2022 Winter Games officially kick off in Beijing on February 4, with its ice hockey event starting a day earlier.

The Russian team are the defending champions after claiming gold four years ago in PyeongChang with a 4-3 overtime win over Germany in the final, on that occasion competing under the name of the Olympic Athletes from Russia due to a doping ban. 

This time around they will be known as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), and are now being tipped to retain their crown in the Chinese capital after reports claimed NHL stars won't be allowed to attend the Games. 

Unlike the political motives of the US diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games, the NHL appears set to ban its stars from traveling to Asia due to the disruption it could cause to its season. 

The hockey league had previously struck up an agreement for its players to represent their countries at the Games, depending on the Covid situation in North America.

With postponements now piling up, though, the NHL has said it is putting pre-Christmas fixtures between Canadian and US outfits on hold to prevent border crossings, as franchises such as the Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalance have shut down over the festive period due to rising cases.  

"Given the disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent Covid-related events... the NHL and NHLPA are actively discussing the matter of NHL player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, and expect to be in a position to announce a final determination in the coming days," read statement.

Reacting to the news, hockey enthusiasts immediately suggested that Russia have increased chances of coming back-to-back champions in Beijing considering that, even if their NHL stars such as the Washington Capitals icon Alexander Ovechkin can't join the squad, they still have a considerable amount of talent to call upon from the majority-Russian KHL.

One punter pointed out that Russia were 9/2 to win gold and gain a "massive edge if NHL [players] can't go" to Beijing.

"Worth the hedge if they do," it was added. 

"I'm locking in Russia to win Olympic Gold at anything +300 or better," said a sports betting reporter.

"Don't see how NHL players go to Beijing, at which point Russia will have far and ahead the best team – [it] wouldn't even be particularly close," he claimed.

"NHL players will not go to the Olympics," began another onlooker. 

"Also, I am putting everything I own on Team Russia winning the gold medal," he declared, alongside a picture of a laughing Vladimir Putin. 

If NHL players can't go to Beijing, they will join Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner, who announced that he won't be playing for Sweden due to the impact Covid restrictions could have on his mental health.