NHL stops cross-border games, shuts down 6th team
NEW YORK — The NHL and its players association temporarily clamped down on teams crossing the Canadian border and shut down operations of a sixth team on Sunday in hopes of salvaging the season as COVID-19 outbreaks spread across the league.
The Detroit Red Wings were added to the list of teams told to shut down operations, joining the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins. Detroit’s home game against Colorado on Monday previously had been postponed and will not take place as scheduled, and the Red Wings’ trip to Minnesota for Thursday’s game was called off.
Canadian-based teams will not play U.S.-based teams from Monday through Thursday, with those postponed games expected be rescheduled.
All told, 27 games have been postponed through Saturday and 12 more through Thursday will be pushed to another date. Roughly 10% of the 700-plus players were in the league’s virus protocol as of Saturday.
“We will continue to play the 2021-22 regular season schedule,” the NHL and NHLPA said Sunday in a joint statement. “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.”
All of the COVID-19 disruptions may lead to NHL players staying home instead of participating in the Winter Olympics in less than two months. The NHL has said players can compete in Beijing unless the coronavirus becomes a problem.
The league has until Jan. 10 to opt out of the Winter Games without financial penalty, but it retains the right to cancel its plans up until players are scheduled to travel to Beijing. The NHL and NHLPA said it will announce a final decision in the coming days.
To slow the spread of the coronavirus, the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to daily testing and other enhanced protocols through Jan. 1, with an evaluation no later than Jan. 7.