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Will NHL players go to the Beijing Olympics?

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said it would be an honor to represent his homeland of Sweden in the Olympics, calling the men’s ice hockey tournament “as good as it gets on the international level.”

That was in 2013.

He still hasn’t gone.

He might never go.

Hedman was inexplicably snubbed from Sweden’s 2014 Olympic squad and then sat out the 2018 Winter Games when the NHL couldn’t cut a deal with the IOC and forbade its players from going to Pyeongchang.

As part of the collective bargaining agreement extension agreed to last summer, the NHL and the NHLPA committed to participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics, “subject to negotiation of terms acceptable to each of the NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF (and/or IOC).” But on Monday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said time is running short on securing those terms for the Beijing Games next February. He doesn’t know if they’re going after all.

“We have real concerns about whether or not its sensible to have our players participating and us shutting down for an Olympic break,” he said.

Hedman hadn’t heard about Bettman’s comments when I asked him about them. The veteran let out an exasperated chuckle and then it appeared any semblance of happiness had evacuated his body.

(“I think you broke the best defenseman in the world,” texted one fellow hockey writer.)

“The Olympics is one of the biggest dreams of mine and I haven’t been able to participate in one. This might be the last chance I get. That sucks to hear,” Hedman said. “When you get an opportunity to represent your country on the biggest stage, it’s one of those things that you’ll probably never forget. For me, it’s obviously something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life and something I want to do before I hang up my skates.”

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