NHL closes Wednesday-Saturday; 5 games postponed

An increase in positive COVID-19 results among players has prompted the NHL to begin a leaguewide shut down Wednesday. Ten of 32 league teams have already paused their schedules and closed their facilities.

NHL closes Wednesday-Saturday; 5 games postponed

Monday night, the league announced that its annual holiday break will be open two days earlier than originally scheduled. It will continue through Saturday. In coordination with the NHL Players Association, the league decided to postpone five more games that were scheduled for Thursday. This brings the season's total to 49.

Two scheduled Tuesday games are still on schedule. The teams will report to COVID-19 testing on Sunday and practice the following day. Each team's players and their traveling party members will need to take a negative test before they can be allowed back into their facilities.

After the NHLPA and NHLHL issued joint statements announcing that they wanted to avoid a complete league shutdown, the NHLPA and NHLHLA decided to start the holiday break early. The holiday break was originally supposed to last from Friday through Sunday.

The 44 games that were postponed have been played in the past two weeks, with the delta-omicron variants spreading throughout North America.

Over 15% of the 700+ league players are currently in virus protocol. This disruption to the schedule almost certainly has ended any chance of Olympic participation. The final decision regarding the Beijing Games will be made this week. There is little chance of NHL players returning for the Olympics since 2014.

On Monday, the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers became the latest teams to suspend all activities due to positive COVID-19 test results. The Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs are also closed. The Calgary Flames have just reopened their facilities to all players, coaches, and staff who are not in protocol.

A pre-Olympic hockey game between the Canadian and U.S women's hockey teams was scheduled for Monday night in St. Paul. However, it was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Many details about the omicron coronavirus strain remain unknown. This includes whether or not it causes more severe illness. Scientists believe that omicron spreads faster than any other coronavirus strains including delta. It is expected to be the dominant virus in the United States by next year. Early research suggests that booster shots will be required to prevent an omicron-related infection. However, even without this extra dose, vaccines should still provide strong protection against serious illness and death.

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