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NHL and NHLPA agree to continue season

Decision on Olympics pending

NHL: DEC 09 Lightning at Maple Leafs Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the NHL scrambles to reschedule games due to the number of players currently in COVID protocols, the league and the players’ association have agreed to continue the season. There was minor talk that the league may pause the schedule due to recent uptick in positive tests. However, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to delay cross-border games through the Christmas break.

That decision affects 12 more games that are scheduled for next week, bringing the total number of games postponed to 39 this season. Having just made a swing through Canada the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t scheduled to head north of the border until they make a trip to Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver in early March. Montreal is scheduled to come to Tampa on December 28th, but as of now that game hasn’t been rescheduled.

So far the schedule adjustments have only affected one Lightning game, last night’s game in Colorado. They are still on track to head out to play Vegas and Arizona later this week. The league is pretty much taking things on a case-by-case, day-by-day basis so stay tuned for further development.

Despite the rise in positive tests, the league and the players’ association have decided that due to the high vaccination rates in the league (Tyler Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings is the only known non-vaccinated player) and that most of the players testing positive are asymptomatic it’s okay to cautiously move forward with play. They are hoping that the enhanced protocols enacted last week will be effective.

As for the Olympics, the two sides are still in active discussions and anticipate making a final decision “in the coming days”. Players are still concerned about the possibility of long quarantines if they test positive in China. The league probably wouldn’t be super happy to lose some of their marquee players for up to five weeks either. The Lightning have multiple players scheduled to make their national teams so participation will be of some concern.

From reports the Lightning were one of the first organizations to become vaccinated last season and it sounds like they have also received their booster shots. As of today they have yet to have to put any players into protocol this season.

The league, like every other professional sport currently playing, is still pretty much in flux while dealing with a nebulous situation. Expect more of what we’ve seen in recent weeks where individual teams have games cancelled possibly at the last moment. However, if things worsen the league will re-evaluate the decision after consulting with the players’ association.

See full press release, including the cross-border games being rescheduled, below:

NEW YORK/TORONTO (Dec. 19, 2021) – Following several days of meetings with their respective medical experts amid increasing positive test results and rising numbers of postponed games, the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) today jointly announced the following:

i) We will continue to play the 2021-22 regular-season schedule. Although there has been a recent increase in positive COVID test results among Players, coaches and hockey staff, there have been a low number of positive cases that have resulted in concerning symptoms or serious illness. Therefore, the NHLPA’s and NHL’s medical experts have determined that, with virtually all Players and Club hockey staff fully vaccinated, the need to temporarily shut down individual teams should continue to be made on a case-by-case basis. The effects of recently introduced enhanced prevention and detection measures will be evaluated daily. The NHL and NHLPA, along with their medical experts, will be monitoring not only the number and pattern of positive COVID results, but also the depth of Club line-ups so as to ensure both the health and safety of the Players and the integrity of League competition.

ii) Due to the concern about cross-border travel and, given the fluid nature of federal travel restrictions, effective on Monday, all games involving a Canadian-based team playing a U.S.-based team from Monday, Dec. 20 through the start of the Holiday break on Dec. 23, will be postponed and rescheduled. Those additional postponements include:

Monday, Dec. 20:

Montreal @ NY Islanders; Anaheim @ Edmonton

Tuesday, Dec. 21:

St. Louis @ Ottawa; Vancouver @ San Jose

Wednesday, Dec. 22:

Montreal @ NY Rangers; Winnipeg @ Dallas; Edmonton @ Los Angeles

Thursday, Dec. 23:

St. Louis @ Toronto; Carolina @ Ottawa; Montreal @ New Jersey; Anaheim @ Vancouver;

Edmonton @ San Jose

(a full list of NHL postponements to date can be found on the League’s media site)

iii) Given the disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events – 27 games had been postponed as of Saturday and at least 12 more will be postponed through Dec. 23 – and the continued uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID pandemic, the NHL and NHLPA are actively discussing the matter of NHL Player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, and expect to be in a position to announce a final determination in the coming days.

With the number one priority of maintaining the health and safety of our NHL community, and amid changing and unpredictable conditions, we are determined to remain flexible and adaptable both in terms of scheduling and in adjusting Protocols as necessary.