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NHL pulling out of Olympics, costing Patrick Kane last chance to win gold with U.S.

The NHL and its players association agreed Tuesday to withdraw from the 2022 Winter Olympics, allowing postponed games to be rescheduled in February.

Patrick Kane and the U.S. made it far, but not to the gold medal, in both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
Patrick Kane and the U.S. made it far, but not to the gold medal, in both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
Julie Jacobson/AP

Throughout the fall, the NHL’s great Olympic question has been particularly tough for Patrick Kane to consider.

Having lost the gold-medal game in 2010 and the bronze-medal game in 2014, then being unable to participate — along with the rest of the NHL — in 2018, Kane saw the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as his last shot to win gold for the U.S. He hoped to go for that reason.

But he also understood the opposing view created by China’s strict COVID-19 quarantine requirements, political issues and the massive hole the Olympics created in the NHL’s February schedule.

After months of uncertainty, the latter forces reportedly won out. The NHL and its players association agreed Tuesday to withdraw from the Olympics.

And so a thoughtful Kane — speaking Tuesday after the Blackhawks’ last practice before the moved-up holiday break — sounded both relieved and dismayed.

“It’s just a tough situation for everybody,” he said. “You’re excited to be able to get the chance to represent your country. Obviously, I’m 33 right now, so you’re hoping you can play in as many as possible. But I don’t know if it would’ve really been a true Olympics experience this year, with being in a bubble and with all the worries going over there.

“[I was] definitely fortunate to play in Sochi, and Vancouver was just unbelievable. I don’t think the Olympic experience will be even close to comparable to what we had there in 2010. [But I] felt like I would’ve had the chance to be in a leadership role this year, so it would’ve been fun to play with a lot of younger players and some great players around the league.”

On Dec. 3, he mentioned a similar reservation, saying the 2022 Olympics “probably won’t be the same as far as fans and the atmosphere.”

Still, the on-ice competition surely wouldn’t have lacked intensity. And for Kane to not get the opportunity to add the one missing international piece to his legacy is a shame, for himself and for U.S. hockey fans.

The U.S. team was shaping up to be a legitimate contender. Kane, Hawks teammate Seth Jones and Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews already had been named to the team, and Alex DeBrincat, Matthew Tkachuk, Adam Fox, Charlie MacAvoy and Connor Hellebuyck would’ve complemented them well.

“For USA Hockey, we would’ve put together a pretty competitive team, and that’s disappointing,” Kane said. “I don’t think that’ll change four years from now, but [it] would’ve been fun to have that opportunity and welcome the next generation of USA Hockey players and be able to be part of that.”

Kane said he’d be open to holding the hockey tournament in the Summer Olympics instead, removing the every-four-years conflict with the NHL schedule, although that doesn’t seem to be a realistic possibility.

With this year’s conflict removed, the NHL is expected to use the previously blocked-out Feb. 6-22 window to reschedule postponed games and get its regular season back on track to conclude at the end of April.

Beyond Kane, Jones and DeBrincat, a handful of other Hawks likely were Olympics-bound — Dominik Kubalik (Czech Republic), Philipp Kurashev (Switzerland), Lukas Reichel (Germany) and potentially Marc-Andre Fleury (Canada). And while Canada’s Jonathan Toews seemed like a long shot, he also weighed in Tuesday.

“It would’ve been a really great thing for our game,” Toews said. “But from what I’m hearing — and my personal opinion, as well — is that players are going to put [not only] their own health and their own families but [also] their own clubs’ situation as priorities ahead of going over to Beijing and dealing with some very unpredictable scenarios. To me, that’s the right way to go about it.”