Two more NHL teams have been closed due to deteriorating test results for COVID-19 and a desire not to pause the entire league as coronavirus variants spread across North America.
All Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers games have been postponed for at least Christmas weekend, and the hard-hit Calgary Flames have closed for the holidays.
Training centers for all three teams have been closed as the league raised concerns about the number of positive infections in the past two days, as well as concerns about the continued spread of COVID in the coming days.
Recent changes bring the total number of NHL games rescheduled this season to 20.
“The fact that we only closed two additional teams means that we are trying to avoid a total league closure,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press in an email. He added that “it is obvious that this can change depending on the circumstances.”
Over 60 players are currently participating in the NHL COVID Protocol, including 19 on The Flames. All but one player on the current league rosters, Tyler Bertuzzi of Detroit, are considered fully vaccinated. It is unclear how many of them received additional boosters for COVID-19.
The NHL has rescheduled just five games during the first two months of the season, and one has already been rescheduled and played. As recently as last week, NHL Players Association executive director Don Fehr said the league was “able to handle” some of the delays.
This changed quickly. In total, Calgary have postponed six games, four Avalanches and three Panthers.
It has been announced for hours in the NHL that Saturday’s Montreal match between the Canadians and Boston has been postponed. The league did not hear a word about the Bruins’ game on Sunday in Ottawa, which, like Toronto and other Ontario cities, limits seat capacity to 50% as mandated by provincial health authorities.
The Canadiens beat Philadelphia on Thursday night at the largely empty Bell Center due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Quebec, as required by local health authorities.
The Bruins are left without seven players due to COVID-19 protocol – including stars Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron – due to a 3-1 defeat on Thursday night by the New York Islanders. They beat a man with 11 strikers and six defenders. Colorado players voted to continue their game Thursday in Nashville, where several players and coaches were also unavailable for virus-related reasons.
The Toronto Maple Leafs canceled their training in Vancouver on Friday as a precautionary measure after captain John Tavares and striker Alexander Kerfoot were added to the list.
The postponement of such a number of games could jeopardize the NHL’s participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, which starts on February 4. When the league and players agreed to participate, they left the door open to refuse if they needed two and a half times. one week break for the end of the season.
Daly said Friday that no decision has yet been made on the Olympics, but noted that the likelihood “is becoming more and more difficult.” The league must withdraw from the game before January 10 without penalties.
The Canadian press contributed to this report.
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