The 2021 NHL season will feature a shortened 56-game schedule. But there have been a few speed-related collisions with COVID-19 along the way, including the Dallas Stars, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals.
Here’s everything you need to know about the impact of the virus on hockey season and what happens next.
When did COWID-19 affect the season?
Before she started. Daily tests began at training camp, and a few days later there was a rematch with the Dallas Stars, reigning champions of the Western Conference. According to the league, 17 members of the Star Team tested positive at VIDOC-19, forcing the team to close their facility for a few days. The NHL said most Dallas players were asymptomatic and all are currently recovering without complications.
The Stars had to postpone their first four games – two against the Florida Panthers and two against the Tampa Bay Lightning – and begin their season on Friday night against the Nashville Predators. Four games have been rescheduled for February and May, including one game on May 10. May – two days after the end of the originally scheduled season. In terms of programming, the NHL has allowed a certain amount of time before the playoffs to allow for this flexibility.
Have there been any other regularisations since then?
The Carolina Hurricanes are also in a situation that has forced them to postpone four of their games. Five players – Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teraveinen, Warren Vogele and Jordan Martinuk and defenseman Jakkob Slavin – have been named to the COVID-19 NHL. During Thursday’s conference call, Canes general manager Don Waddell said the league was working on rescheduling games and was confident, even though his team’s schedule has just tightened. (Although not too close, the league believes that teams should not play three games in three nights, according to the Grand Master).
Mr. Waddell was unwilling to provide details about the players who may have contracted the virus, and when asked how it was spread, he replied: I don’t know if that’s the case: If we could figure out where that came from, there would be a lot of sports teams that would be very happy.
What is the list of COVID-19 protocols in the NHL?
Now that we are in the regular season, the NHL is publishing the IDs of players who have been placed on what is known as the COVID-19 list. This does not necessarily mean that the player has a confirmed positive test; a player can be listed for a variety of reasons, ranging from a positive test to a quarantine required due to close contact. If a player is registered while traveling, he must remain in isolation until he is allowed to travel.
We have guys sitting in a hotel room in Nashville who can’t leave their room, Rod Brind’Amour coach said on Thursday. It’s cruel.
Again, the NHL knew that a preponderance of cases would be inevitable, especially in a bubble-free environment. As Brind’Amour said on Thursday, the team followed league protocols, but the virus still found its way in.
Just look at all the other sports, it’s rare to find a team that isn’t affected, Brind’Amour said. It’s not a question of if it will happen, but how you deal with it. That’s what we’re really going to figure out, how to deal with it. Will we be in good shape? Probably not. We need to think of other ways to make up for lost time. It’s about doing things right, as best we can.
Cane played against the Predators on Monday before all this postponement, and several players on the COVID list played 19 minutes. Is this a problem?
The good news is that the Predators have not added any new players to their COVID-19 protocol team. However, the situation reveals a flaw in NHL testing procedures. Although the players are tested daily, the results are not available for about 24 hours. Hurricanes are a perfect example. The players were tested Monday morning before the Predators’ game in Nashville, then the team learned Tuesday that positive tests were in play.
The solution could be to do what the NBA does: find a local supplier in each market that can offer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. These tests are collected the morning of the game, and the NBA sees the results at least an hour before the start of the game. According to League sources, the NHL is not yet considering taking this path. But we’ll see if they have to change their attitude as more and more deferrals and positive tests pile up.
As for the decision to postpone the game? An NHLPA source told ESPN’s Greg Wyszynski this week that these calls are not related to the quality of unavailable players, but rather to medical experts’ recommendations regarding overall risk to teams.
Teuvo Teravainen, currently on the VIDOC’s 19-minute list, played against the Predators on Monday. John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images
What happened to the capitals?
The situation in Washington is related to NHL protocols, which are strict and much more restrictive than those with which the NBA began its season. It is important to note that these rules were jointly discussed and approved by the NHL and the LLPOA.
The NHL knew they couldn’t ask players to stay on the air all season because, as Commissioner Gary Bettman said, it’s just not viable. While the cost of the bubbles was significant, the sacrifice required of the players, team, and league personnel was the main impeding factor. Bubble players in Edmonton and Toronto were largely separated from their families during their stay, and several expressed concern to ESPN about the impact on their mental health after they were put behind bars and only allowed to travel back and forth between the hotel and the rink.
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I don’t think a lot of fans realize the emotional impact of the bubble on some players – the isolation, the squealing, the estrangement from our families and loved ones during a very stressful time, one player told ESPN in September. Honestly, I noticed after the first few days that a lot of guys were more depressed than usual. Some people were really sad. It’s not easy to live like this for two months.
In other words, the NHL agreed to let players live at home during the season, but limited some of their freedoms. When players are at home, they are not encouraged to get off the ice with their teammates. Group meetings and video recordings are also recommended almost everywhere. When traveling, players must stay in their own hotel room (no roommates) and may not eat in restaurants, shop, or use means of transportation not provided directly by the team.
Prior to the season, the NHL warned teams that violating these protocols would result in significant penalties for clubs and individuals, including possible game fees, fines and refunds, loss of draft picks and/or disqualification from participating in the teams.
And that’s exactly what happened in Washington. According to coach Peter Laviolette, one of the players tested positive, forcing the NHL to conduct a contact investigation. It was then found that there is social interaction between team members in capitals that are in close contact and do not wear face shields. Four players – forwards Alexey Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov and defender Dmitry Orlov – were caught in the COVID-19 protocol and the team was fined $100,000. Laviolette said he expects these players to miss the next four games, after which the league will be re-evaluated.
How did the capitals respond to their punishment?
First, a quote from a veteran player who was very involved in the NHLPA discussions this summer: I think it’s understandable that the league wants to use the caps as an example. They say everyone should be on their guard.
The Capitals issued a statement expressing disappointment with our players’ decision to interact in the hotel room and outside of team-approved areas. The team took the punishment and vowed that the players would abide by the rules of the offense.
We want to adapt and we made a mistake and we need to do better, Laviolette said Thursday. Honestly, even I made a mistake. I dropped the mask. It was at the end of the celebration [of the last game]. I need to do better too. It’s a lesson for everyone, because these are real things we’re talking about here. We don’t take it lightly. We try to be 100% compliant, but if we make a mistake, it can be costly.
Team captain Ovechkin also issued a statement, saying that I regret my decision to spend time with my teammates in our hotel room and away from the locker rooms. I will learn from this experience.
Ovechkin’s wife, Nastya, however, had stronger words. On Thursday, she wrote a sarcastic post on Instagram:
Alex Ovechkin’s wife, Nastya, just posted this on Instagram. She says Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov have Covid-19 antibodies pic.twitter.com/ZzxaisAFvW
– Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) January 21, 2021
How do league players feel about the progress of the season?
The restrictions make the season look different (as do the divisional games, less travel and the fact that the season started in January). To be fair, one player told ESPN this week. That’s a lot. I feel like I’m living in a bubble at home.
Most of the players I’ve talked to in recent weeks accept the sacrifices the league finds necessary to end the season, making up for some of the billions of dollars the league and its clubs lose, according to Bettman, due to the pandemic. If conditions are not ideal, actors generally manage the situation professionally.
Everyone has been working hard to get back in shape, Predators defenseman Mark Borowiecki told reporters this week about the buzz. Going out on the field and being irresponsible in any way and possibly disrupting someone else’s season by doing what is required is just not a good teammate or a good person for me. This is where each of us must take responsibility for ourselves and our daily habits, as well as how we run our business. I hope we can end this sooner.
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