The NHL made an announcement on Monday evening that it will suspend its current season on Wednesday, two days before its normal Christmas break. Starting Wednesday and going till Saturday, all NHL team operations will be stopped while the league attempts to deal with a number of COVID-19 cases. On Sunday, players are expected to return to their respective team facilities and continue regular testing. It is expected that the NHL schedule of resuming on December 27 will remain.
As a result of the decision, only three games remained on the NHL schedule before the announced break. They include Monday’s face-off between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild and Tuesday’s game that will feature the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+). The other game is Tuesday’s clash between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights.
The Stars had already beaten the Wild 7-4 earlier on Monday. However, the NHL put off the subsequent Capitals-Flyers game that was to take place on Tuesday afternoon. This happened after a COVID outbreak occurred in the Washington Capitals team.
For the NHL, it has been a really difficult week. Eleven teams were already in the spotlight as they all suspended their operations.
The league itself had to put off all games involving cross-border travel between Canada and the United States until after Christmas. And until Monday night, well over 15% of the league’s players were undergoing testing for the virus.
So far, over 50 games have been impacted by the announcement, starting with the games which were to be played on the said Wednesday. The NHL considers this to be a significant disruption to its planned schedule. According to sources that spoke to ESPN, it is a good enough reason for the league to use its opt-out clause for players who wanted to or will be participating in the Beijing Olympics. This week, the NHL is set to make a formal announcement on the Olympics.
And still this week, the NHL leadership also reinstated tighter player protocols, one of them being that they have to undergo daily testing. This is a change from the previous rule where they had to undergo testing only once every three days. Some other rules that have been reintroduced include the social distancing measures and the limits on the places players can go when they are not at the rink, hotel, or home.
The interesting thing is that in the entire NHL league, there is only one player who is not vaccinated, and that is Detroit Red Wings forward, Tyler Bertuzzi. While the NHL and the NHLPA have made vaccine booster recommendations to the players, they do not plan to enforce it in the current season.