NHL Will Shut Down Early Due to COVID Rise

NHL Will Shut Down Early Due to COVID Rise An empty Bell Centre is viewed in Montreal

An empty Bell Centre is viewed in Montreal ahead of an NHL hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 16. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Tuesday, 21 December 2021 06:36 AM

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 are postponed and team facilities will be closed those days, too, due to COVID-19 outbreaks at multiple teams, the league announced 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.

The latest move postpones five games slated for Thursday, bringing the total to 49 NHL games pushed back 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 had been postponed.

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.

Even if teams return as scheduled next Monday, procedures will change. No personnel will be allowed to enter team facilities, except to get a COVID-19 test, until they have tested negative.