The NHL has multiple rosters’ worth of players in COVID protocols, with the number growing seemingly by the hour. The obvious thing to do, the thing that we would have expected in the era of “an abundance of caution” (remember that?) would be for the league to shut things down for a couple of weeks, adjust the schedule accordingly, and try again once this surge has passed.
While the league doesn’t want to do that, not with tickets already sold and some tickets (gasp) having to be refunded as a result of mandated reduced capacities in Canadian cities, COVID-19 and the Omicron variant continues not to give a single, solitary fuck about what anyone wants to do.
The Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers had their games through Christmas postponed Friday, joining the Calgary Flames, who last played Sunday and also will now be on hiatus until after the NHL’s holiday break.
As a reminder that the novel coronavirus is highly contagious, the Flames’ last game was a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, who have since had several of their own players placed into health and safety protocols, and had to play the Islanders on Thursday night with only 11 forwards. The Bruins’ game against the Canadiens on Saturday has been called off, too, and maybe the good news is that the Islanders don’t have to worry about catching the virus from the Bruins… because New York already has COVID issues and just got back from having games postponed.
Every sports league in the world is having to deal with COVID in some way or another right now, but we’ve known for more than a year that hockey is particularly tricky because it’s played on a sheet of ice, and the cold, damp air is extremely virus-friendly. It’s why, even in good times, hockey has annual flu issues, and even the occasional mumps outbreak.
The three teams whose schedules have been wiped out for the next week had games on tap against Columbus, Boston, Chicago, Anaheim, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Detroit, Buffalo, and Minnesota. In other words, nearly half the league is impacted by this, and it’s not like COVID issues are limited to only Colorado, Florida, and Calgary.
The NHL already has a two-week break in its schedule coming up for the Olympics, where players’ participation already is up in the air because of the uncertainty around protocols. It would be easy enough, not to mention the right thing to do, to pull the plug on Beijing now, take the last two weeks of 2021 off, and use that Olympic period for make-up games.
The virus might just decide that’s what’s happening anyway.