Covid-19 Continues To Impact The League With Serious Implications

As the holiday season is upon us and the deadline to pull out of the Olympics draws ever so near, Covid continues to rack up names in its protocol superstar studded list. Since we last reported here at Inside The Rink, The list of teams and players has grown significantly, as has the concern about whether NHL players will be allowed to participate in the Winter Olympics. There are also talks about how the league will reschedule the games that have been affected to Covid 19. Attendance restrictions have also been in the discussion, with the Toronto Maple Leafs officially announcing a reduction of 50% capacity at the Scotia Bank Arena.

Notable Teams Impacted

Boston Bruins

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The Boston Bruins have already been at a disadvantage this season, with the fewest games played in the entire NHL, only second due to the New York Islanders’ total team shutdown. They are currently missing the offensive fire of their Captain Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Craig Smith. Wednesday morning, it was announced that Goaltender Jeremy Swayman had been added to the list and forwards Trent Frederic and Anton Blidh. As mentioned previously, they were also missing head Coach Bruce Cassidy and recently played the Calgary Flames on Saturday, who are now shut down. The fact that players are being placed on Covid Protocol left and right due to the matchup against Calgary, combined with the Bruins’ grueling schedule for the last three months of the regular season, should be something to watch for.

Calgary Flames

The Flames announced today that they had reached 27 cases, including 16 players. Out of the lineup that faced the Boston Bruins this past Saturday, only six players are Covid free. For now, all of their games have been postponed so that they will be missing at least 3-4 games at the time of this article. As mentioned earlier, something to keep an eye on is the teams they faced before the current shutdown, such as the Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes. They currently have six players on the Covid Protocol List.

New York Islanders

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The New York Islanders have had their fair share of struggles this season, both off the ice and on it. Besides losing 11 consecutive games and being in 29th place in the league, they’ve also had to adjustment a new Arena, the UBS Arena, after playing at the Nassau Coliseum for almost half a decade. To make matters worse, they were completely shut down after having eight-players test positive for Covid, missing two games. Just as they thought they were out of the woods, Forward Matthew Barzal has been placed on the Covid Protocol List. Barzal is the Islanders’ top-line center, so his absence has already been felt in a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Hopefully, there won’t be any more cases for the Islanders, but it’s certainly something to watch.

What possible implications could the NHL be facing?

With 15 teams out of the 32 being affected by Covid as of right now, and with the Olympics right around the corner, we could be seeing a lot of rescheduled games being played during what would have been the Olympic break. Ultimately it is up to the NHLPA and the players themselves if they want to take the risk of going overseas, but it could be very costly to the NHL schedule and even the Stanely Cup Playoff if they do.

Currently, flights and hotels are being booked for the 2022 Winter Olympics by the countries and their respective Hockey programs on their own budget. With that being said, The NHL has a deadline of January 10th to ultimately decide whether or not they are going to sanction the players to participate. After that, the league will be fully financially responsible for all costs if they choose to pull the plug. However, knowing how Gary Bettman and the NHL operate, once we pass January 10th, if anyone will be pulling the plug, it most certainly won’t be the NHL.

Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, told the board of governors that they would leave the decision on whether or not to participate in the Olympics, which we have started to see in league-wide interviews. With contingencies such as having to quarantine for 3-5 weeks if a player tests positive for Covid during the competition, players have had mixed feelings. One side of the argument is Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who is still holding out hope and optimism. “Given the opportunity to go, I would go.” On the other hand, you have players like Connor McDavid who find the idea of possible quarantine for 3-5 weeks “unsettling.” Regardless it will all come down to the NHLPA and their decision

Personally, I know I would love to see team USA in action in February, but I also would hate to see the Playoffs affected by all the rescheduling. It has been a very tough two years with the ongoing pandemic, and I think one thing we can all agree on is that we want a return to normalcy. What do you guys think, though? Should the NHL pull out of the Olympics? Is it worth the risk of a possible league-wide outbreak? Should games be played during the current timeframe of the Olympic break? Let us know in the comments below!

List of all Teams/Players on the Covid Protocal List as of December 16th, 2021:

  • Boston Bruins – Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Craig Smith, Jeremy Swayman, Trent Frederic, Anton Blidh,
  • Calgary Flames – Full Team Outbreak
  • Carolina Hurricanes – Sebastian Aho, Seth Jarvis, Ian Cole, Steven Lorentz, Jordan Staal, Andrei Svechnikov, and an unamed staff member
  • Colorado Avalanche – Devon Toews
  • Edmonton Oilers – Ryan McLeod
  • Florida Panthers – Ryan Lomberg, Sam Bennett, Radko Gudas, Ryan Lomberg, Brandon Montour, Carter Verhaeghe,
  • Los Angeles Kings – Blake Lizotte 
  • Montreal Canadiens – Brendan Gallagher, Sami Niku
  • Nashville Predators – Ryan Johansen, Matt Luff, Mikael Granlund, Michael McCarron, Philip, Tomasino, and Ben Harper, Head Coach John Hynes, Assitant Coaches Dan Lambert and Todd Richards, and Goaltending Coach Ben Vanderklok
  • New Jersey Devils – Nico Hischier, Ryan Graves, Christian Jaros, and Goalie Coach Dave Rogalski
  • New York Islanders – Matthew Barzal
  • Philadelphia Flyers – Morgan Frost
  • Seattle Kraken – Colin Blackwell, Yanni Gourde, Riley Seahan, and Assitant Coach Jay Leach
  • Vancouver Cannucks – Brad Hunt, Juho Lammikko, Luke Schenn
  • Washinton Capitals – Garnet Hathaway 

Nick Krell

Born in Florida and raised in New England, Nick is an avid sports fan and athlete, having competed in several US States and in Europe, winning State Cup in soccer in CT. His love for hockey developed in his early teens supporting local Dartmouth College Hockey. His world experience from living in 4 different states and 2 Continents provides a unique insight into Sports culture around the world.

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