NHL COVID pandemic
Anaheim Ducks players on the ice after center Sam Carrick (39), a former San Diego Gull, scored in the third period against the Seattle Kraken on Dec. 15, 2021 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire)

The National Hockey League and its players union announced Sunday that a spate of games involving Canadian-based teams playing a U.S. teams will be rescheduled due to COVID-19 issues.

Games from Monday through the start of Thursday’s holiday break will be postponed, though the NHL and NHL Players Association said Sunday in a statement that they plan to “continue to play the 2021-22 regular-season schedule.”

The announcement affects the scheduled game between the Anaheim Ducks – the NHL parent of the San Diego Gulls – and Edmonton on Monday, along with a game at Vancouver on Thursday.

In addition, the Los Angeles Kings’ scheduled home game against Edmonton on Wednesday till be postponed.

Following several days of meetings, the NHL and NHLPA, in a Sunday statement, acknowledged the uptick in COVID positives among players and other team associates:

“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 statement went on to explain that the postponements are “due to the concern about cross-border travel” and “the fluid nature of federal travel restrictions.”

The Ducks’ scheduled Tuesday road game against the Calgary Flames had already been postponed after the Flames were hit by a COVID-19 outbreak.

Sunday’s announcement came one day after the league and its union announced a series of enhanced COVID-19 measures that apply to both vaccinated and unvaccinated personnel, including:

  • Daily molecular testing for all members of the club traveling party;
  • Physical distancing for meals, and a prohibition against eating or drinking in indoor restaurants, bars and similar establishments while on the road, except in private or cordoned-off areas;
  • Virtual meetings, or only brief in-person meetings in well-ventilated spaces, and
  • Restricted access to the locker room and player bench area to only players and members of the club traveling party.

As of Saturday, 27 games had been postponed, and at least 12 more will be postponed through Thursday.

Sunday’s statement also opened up the possibility that the NHL and players union, due to “the continued uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID pandemic,” will consider anew player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Officials said that an announcement would be forthcoming “in the coming days.” The Olympics are set to begin Feb. 3.

COVID issues have hamstrung sports leagues in recent days, including the NBA.

The Los Angeles Lakers will be without coach Frank Vogel Sunday after entering the league’s COVID-19 protocols. The Lakers also said they will be without Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, Malik Monk, Austin Reaves and Kent Bazemore due to COVID-19 protocols.

Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook was in the protocols last week, but was activated after a series of negative tests.

The NBA postponed five games Sunday. The NFL postponed three games this weekend.

– City News Service