COVID-19 outbreak plays havoc with NHL schedule
By Neil Becker
As COVID numbers continue to rapidly rise at an escalating pace, it’s no surprise that the situation has played direct havoc with the NHL schedule.
Naturally, safety is the NHL’s biggest priority so as a result, the league took swift action on Friday by postponing games for the teams with the largest number of COVID omicron variant outbreaks which include the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, and Florida Panthers who won’t be playing until after Christmas break which runs until Boxing Day.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the league took another step in its battle against COVID, by postponing cross-boarder NHL games. This means that six Canadian teams consisting of the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, and Vancouver Canucks have had their games postponed until after the December 24-26 break.
Heading into action last Saturday, 27 games have already been postponed this year due to COVID, and it’s now not a sure thing that the NHL players will participate in the upcoming Feb 2022 Beijing Olympics.
On what was the final Saturday before the Christmas break, the league postponed a handful of games which included an original six classic featuring the Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens.. Other Saturday night games postponed included Florida vs. Minnesota Wild, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Colorado Avalanche, and the Columbus Blue Jackets vs. the Calgary Flames. The Bruins have had several players in COVID protocol which is why their game against Montreal was canceled. No date on when after the holidays these games will be made up.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who are tied with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division, have gone 7-2-1 in their past 10 games. Unfortunately for Leafs fans that momentum was stopped last weekend as they made the move in putting head coach Sheldon Keefe, assistant coach Spencer Carbery along with goalie Jack Campbell, defenceman T.J. Brodie, and Travis Dermott in COVID protocol.
Road games starting last Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks, followed on Sunday by a game in Seattle against the Kraken and a home game this week against the St. Louis Blues have all been postponed. No makeup dates have yet to be announced.
Toronto also had their road game from last Thursday against the Calgary Flames postponed as the Flames have had COVID-19 problems.
This COVID outbreak has also affected Leafs forwards Jason Spezza, Alex Kerfoot, Wayne Simmonds, and captain John Tavares who last Friday were all put in COVID protocol.