NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr thinks NHL players missing out on another Winter Olympics is a "real shame," but knew the writing was on the wall when more and more games were postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks across the league over the last couple weeks. 

“As we began to lose games, it became more and more likely and then eventually inevitable that we would not be able to make up the games without utilizing the Olympic break,” Fehr told Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic. “And it’s a real shame. But that’s the world we’re in.”

The NHL made the inevitable official on Wednesday morning, announcing its players would not be attending the Winter Olympics.

“Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events -- 50 games already have been postponed through Dec. 23 -- Olympic participation is no longer feasible," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. 

In their agreement with the NHLPA, the NHL was allowed to pull out of the Olympics once the "integrity of the season schedule was threatened" by COVID-19. Fehr told LeBrun that if not for problems with the virus, NHL players would be heading to Beijing to compete in the Olympics for the first time since 2014. 

“But for COVID, I have no reason at all to think that there would have been any problem in the end going,” Fehr said.

Despite it being out of their control, Fehr says players are devastated by the news. 

“You want to do something, you have your heart set on it, you’re looking forward to it, and all of a sudden it can’t be,” Fehr said. “And even though you understand it for reasons entirely outside everybody’s control, it’s still a difficult thing to do.”

Fehr would not comment on whether or not any current NHLers would still attempt to play in the Olympics. 

Fehr also mentioned that he has no indication that the International Olympic Committee will delay the Winter Olympics to 2023. 

Canada won men's Olympic gold with NHL players in the fold at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics in Vancouver and Sochi, before earning bronze at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Olympic Athletes from Russia defeated Germany in the gold-medal game that year.