NHL implements enhanced COVID protocols; Leafs and Sens now at half capacity

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Oct 18, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant during the first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

NHL players will face tougher COVID-19 protocols through at least Jan. 7 amid a surge in cases, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Per the network, the NHL, NHLPA and doctors representing both took part in conference calls Tuesday night and Wednesday to address the outbreak.

COVID cases spike

The Calgary Flames have been hit the hardest with 16 players and coach Darryl Sutter in the league protocols. Their season is on hold until at least Saturday.

Under the new protocols, players will be tested every day instead of every third day, meetings will be held virtually and personnel must wear face masks at team facilities, ESPN reported. Personnel also will be asked to restrict all of their social interaction and to socially distance inside team facilities.

In all, more than two dozen players have entered COVID-19 protocols over the past two days, raising the number to more than 130 for the season, ESPN reported.

On Wednesday, the Canadian province of Ontario took action to reduce capacity at indoor arenas by 50 percent because of COVID-19. That affects the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators of the NHL, as well as the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and other minor-league hockey teams.

Maple Leafs and Senators reduce capacity

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Nov 18, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant watches the play during the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

All indoor facilities in the Canadian province of Ontario that seat at least 1,000 people must reduce capacity to 50 percent to battle the coronavirus, the provincial government announced Wednesday.

The ruling impacts the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL and the Toronto Raptors of the NBA, as well as teams in the Ontario Hockey League.

The new rule will take effect Saturday at 12:01 a.m. and is designed to try to limit the spread of the resurgent virus, fueled in part by the newly discovered omicron variant.

Ontario reported 1,808 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, marking the eighth straight day with more than 1,000 cases.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment said it was working to implement the rule, which will first be enacted Saturday night when the Raptors host the Golden State Warriors.

“As announced by the province this afternoon, capacities for events at MLSE venues, including Maple Leaf and Raptors games at Scotiabank Arena, will be reduced to fifty percent capacities effective Saturday as we all work together to prioritize public health with increasing COVID-19 cases in Ontario,” a statement from the organization said.

“As has been the case throughout the pandemic, MLSE remains fully supportive of the province’s decision, and we continue to work closely with our government and public health partners to protect against the spread of COVID-19 within our community. Our ticketing team is currently working through the logistics of implementing this change and will provide follow up details to all ticket holders within 24 hours.”

MLSE also said it is implementing an enhanced mask policy to take effect Saturday.

Premier Doug Ford asked for the public’s cooperation on Wednesday, especially when it comes to vaccinations.

“I know this will be tough, but it’s an important step in ensuring we slow the spread of Omicron as we urgently accelerate boosters because, as I said earlier, it’s all hands on deck,” Ford said at a news conference. “This is a call to arms. And now more than ever, we need everyone to be doing their part.”

Fans were barred from attending NHL games in Canada in the 2020-21 regular season. The Raptors spent their season in Tampa, Fla.

–Field Level Media