SAN JOSE – The Sharks are still on track to play the Anaheim Ducks on December 27, the first of three games the team is scheduled to play before the end of the calendar year.
But Sharks coach Bob Boffner learns that no NHL game – now or after the Christmas break – is set in stone as the league announces one postponement after another and concerns the steady rise of positive COVID cases. .
“I think the fear of moving forward for us is what it looks like when we get back (after Christmas),” Boffner said on Monday. “Not so much protocol, but we want to play and we don’t want to miss any more games. So what is it going to look like and how do we go through the second half of our schedule living with this pandemic?”
The Sharks had games with the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers postponed to a still unknown date this week as both teams, as of Monday, had a combined 13 players in the league’s COVID protocols. Concerned about players testing positive and being isolated in another country so close to Christmas, the NHL halted a total of 12 cross-border games.
But the postponement did not stop there.
The NHL announced Monday night that it would begin its annual holiday break on Wednesday instead of Friday. That means five more games scheduled for Thursday will be postponed, bringing the total this season to 49, up from 44 in the past two weeks.
Of the more than 700 players in the NHL, more than 15 percent are in COVID protocol.
Now it’s a matter of what the schedule will look like – and how the NHL proceeds – on the Sunday after the Christmas break ends.
As of Tuesday morning, ten teams had closed their training facilities through the Christmas break, and 23 teams, including the Sharks, had at least one player in protocol. Brent Burns tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.
The NHL said on Sunday it would continue to play the 2021-22 regular-season schedule after the break, saying it continued to require individual teams to temporarily close “on a case-by-case basis” should go.
Still, can the schedule continue as normal with several teams missing players at this point?
“If you’re a team like Calgary where your whole team is out, obviously you can’t play the game,” said defenseman Eric Carlson, referring to the Flames, which as of Monday had more than 20 people, including coaches. Make a draft
“But if you have some guys here and there, the game, I guess. We went through it, some other teams went through it at the beginning of the year. Right now (the NHL is) trying to stop it as much as possible.” So they’re canceling the game. I don’t see a problem with some people here and there as to why they should cancel the game, but that’s not my decision.
To keep things on track for the entire season, Boffner wondered whether the NHL would investigate a similar approach to testing as the NFL, which announced Saturday that it would no longer routinely test asymptomatic vaccinated players.
“The issue here is that you have two different countries, Canada and the US that have different rules,” Bouffer said. “So it might be a little bit difficult to do in our game.
Boffner said that “Hopefully it gets to a system where if you have symptoms and you’re not feeling right, you stay home. If not, you come to the rink — if it’s not serious.” .
“I don’t know if it’s a smart way to go about it or not and that’s just my personal opinion, but every team is going to deal with it. So the league has to come up with some kind of format for how many people you have to play. Need to play, and play through. Because I don’t think this thing is going away.”
Boffner said most of the Sharks’ players are staying in the area for the Christmas break. For those leaving, “It will be about safety precautions. These are the plans these people have in place for the family for a long time. They just have to make sure they are careful about things.”
“We’re not going to stop living life, but we have to be a little smarter.”
Carlsen was a bit more cynical about players surviving the virus.
“I guess you can do whatever you want. At some point, you’re going to have it anyway, so I don’t think it really matters what you do,” Carlson said. “I think we’ve been extremely cautious here. I think that shows. Last year we only had one boy (Tomas Hertle).
“This year I think it doesn’t matter what team you are on, it’s inevitable.”