The current landscape looks bleak when it comes to covid. As far as the NHL and covid go, things went from ok to bad really quickly. At the start of the season, it was fantastic to feel some sense of normalcy and see players on the ice again. Even the talks about taking a break so players could represent their country in the Olympics made things feel bright. As Christmas and the New Year approach though, things are getting difficult for the organization. Amidst a global pandemic, Commissioner Gary Bettman and his staff have some extremely difficult choices to make. Just days away from their Holiday break, the NHL has announced the suspension of multiple games, and a league-wide pause seems very likely.
Due to increase in player cases, earlier this week the NHL decided to postpone the Calgary Flames games until after the Holiday break. They’ve now added the Boston Bruins, the Colorado Avalanche, the Nashville Predators, and the Florida Panthers to the list of teams who will not play a game until after Christmas. Toronto also has their next two games postponed but are still scheduled to play against the St Louis Blues at home on Thursday the 23rd.
NHL and NHLPA Release Update
In a publication released to teams and media, the NHL and NHLPA follow suit is tightening their covid restrictions and guidelines for teams. You can read the whole memorandum here. The goal is to prevent the contraction and spread of the virus in the clubhouses. Some key points to take away for those not looking to read it all are this;
- Wearing masks at all times inside Club facilities and during travel, including buses, trains, or planes. Also when in the hotel. (Only exceptions are working out, on ice, or eating/drinking.
- Physical distancing for meals as a team in both the Club’s home market and on the road. At least one empty chair between persons.
- Prohibition against eating or drinking in indoor restaurants, bars and similar establishments open to the public. Public dining is allowed in a private room or zoned off area. No other diners are allowed within 12 feet of the Club. Teams should seek out better options while traveling. Such as outdoor eating, room service, team eating room at the hotel, or a third party food delivery.
- Virtual meetings, or brief in person meetings.
- Restricted access to locker rooms.
- Avoid public transportation.
- Club organized holiday parties are prohibited and members are prohibited from speaking engagements, public charity events, and autograph sessions open to the public.
These enhanced measures are in place effective now, and the NHL and NHLPA will reevaluate on January 7th and update the Clubs and those involved. For now, traveling Clubs are to do daily tests, report anything in a timely manner, and follow all protocols. On-ice officials are expected to follow the same protocols as the clubs. All media is asked to social distance from players and wear a proper mask when closer than 12 feet to staff.
No one knows the future. But one thing is for sure, that the current trend of cases doesn’t leave a lot of hope for a full season. A lot of issues have been created by the omicron variant for the NHL. Bettman and his team have a lot of data to sift through and work with. The word on the street points to them trying to squeeze the games in that they can now, and during the Holiday break make a decision on the future. A pause and restart feels inevitable to be announced in the next week or so. That is unless teams figure out how to keep their players and staff from testing positive. The NHL has a lot to think about, and I for one am glad I’m not one of the people dealing with this high stakes situation.
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