The National Hockey League has confirmed it will not send its players to the Beijing Winter Olympics due to concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

In a widely expected announcement, the NHL said the current disruption to the competition in the US and Canada made it "impossible" to commit players for the tournament.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said: "The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate in a 'best on best' tournament.

"Accordingly, we have waited as long as possible to make this decision while exploring every available option to enable our players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

"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 23 December - Olympic participation is no longer feasible.

"We certainly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Beijing Organizing Committee to host NHL Players but current circumstances have made it impossible for us to proceed despite everyone's best efforts."

The rash of postponements in the NHL come despite the organisation reporting back in October that all but four players, and all officials, had been vaccinated against the virus.