Christmas will come early for NHL teams, but not in a positive way.
The league was due to have no games from Friday through Sunday for a holiday break, but all games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday will be postponed and team facilities will be closed those days, too, due to COVID-19 outbreaks at multiple teams, ESPN and Sportsnet reported Monday night.
The last three games to be played ahead of the reported early shutdown were the Minnesota Wild at the Dallas Stars on Monday night and two games Tuesday: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning at Vegas Golden Knights.
The league already had officially postponed 44 games due to COVID issues.
The Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs previously had their schedules halted by the league through Sunday. Games involving teams crossing the United States-Canada border also were postponed.
The major shutdown has prompted the league and the players’ union to reopen discussions regarding the players’ involvement in the 2022 Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in February at Beijing.
In the last collective bargaining agreement, the players won the right to compete in the Olympics, with the NHL shutting down from Feb. 3-22. However, those plans could be scrapped as the league attempts to make up the games lost to COVID.
Even if teams return as scheduled next Monday, procedures reportedly will change. According to Sportsnet, a memo sent to teams read, “Upon return from the holiday break to team facilities, no individual in the team’s traveling party shall enter (other than for testing purposes) until they have a negative test result.”
–Field Level Media