NHL shuts down early for Holiday Break; Olympics ruled out due to COVID

Christmas will come early for NHL teams, but not in a positive way.

The league was due to have no games from Friday through Sunday for a holiday break, but all games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday will be postponed and team facilities will be closed those days, too, due to COVID-19 outbreaks at multiple teams, ESPN and Sportsnet reported Monday night.

The last three games to be played ahead of the reported early shutdown were the Minnesota Wild at the Dallas Stars on Monday night and two games Tuesday: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning at Vegas Golden Knights.

NHL pauses for Holiday Break

The league already had officially postponed 44 games due to COVID issues.

The Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs previously had their schedules halted by the league through Sunday. Games involving teams crossing the United States-Canada border also were postponed.

Even if teams return as scheduled next Monday, procedures reportedly will change. According to Sportsnet, a memo sent to teams read, “Upon return from the holiday break to team facilities, no individual in the team’s travelling party shall enter (other than for testing purposes) until they have a negative test result.”

NHL Press Release:

Players will report back to their Clubs on Dec. 26, which shall be used for testing, practice and/or travel only. Upon return from the Holiday Break to team facilities, no individual in the team’s Traveling Party shall enter the facility (other than for testing purposes) until they have a negative test result. Any practice scheduled for Dec. 26 must begin after 2:00 p.m. local time.

Olympic participation over

NHL Shutdown
Aug 13, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; General view of NHL logo in the stands during the warmup period between the Dallas Stars and the Calgary Flames in game two of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The major shutdown has prompted the league and the players’ union to reopen discussions regarding the players’ involvement in the 2022 Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in February at Beijing.

In the last collective bargaining agreement, the players won the right to compete in the Olympics, with the NHL shutting down from Feb. 3-22. However, those plans could be scrapped as the league attempts to make up the games lost to COVID.

In an August news release, the NHL wrote that should its players not take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the league will shift to a revised regular-season schedule.

“Sources confirm the February break in the NHL schedule, originally for the Olympics, will now be used to play make up games for all games taken off the board,” reported Andy Strickland.

The recent COVID spike leading to multiple shutdowns and game postponements made going to Beijing and successfully completing an 82 schedule near impossible.

–Field Level Media