AP source: NHL reintroducing enhanced COVID-19 restrictions

Dec 14, 2021, 8:46 PM | Updated: Dec 15, 2021, 2:29 pm
Calgary Flames' Milan Lucic acknowledges the crowd during a celebration of his having played in mor...

Calgary Flames' Milan Lucic acknowledges the crowd during a celebration of his having played in more than 1,000 games, during the first period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Calgary, Alberta. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press via AP)

With the number of coronavirus cases and game postponements climbing, the NHL is reintroducing enhanced COVID-19 protocols that include daily testing and restrictions in a bid to limit a growing outbreak among players and staff.

The enhanced protocols will be put into effect immediately and last through at least Jan. 7, a person with direct knowledge of discussions between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association told The Associated Press on Wednesday on the condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

The person said the NHL had little choice but to increase its protocols to ensure a full, 82-game season while still taking an extended Olympic break in February.

“The virus is changing and we have to react accordingly,” the person said.

The move came within hours of an ominous step: Ontario health officials unveiled rules that will reduce capacity at the home arenas of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors plus the Ottawa Senators to 50% starting Saturday.

The NHLPA scheduled a conference call with each of its 32 team representatives to go over the enhanced rules, with road-game restrictions — no leaving the hotel — not expected to be popular among players.

Daily testing will also return for players and coaches as part of the decision, which was reached after two days of meetings amid worsening conditions across the league. Players and staff from three more teams were added to the league’s COVID-19 protocol list Wednesday.

That included 17 members of the Calgary Flames, who also had a fourth game postponed (Saturday’s home matchup against Columbus). Coach Darryl Sutter and two assistants were on the list along with players including Rasmus Andersson, Johnny Gaudreau and others, raising the number of Calgary players in the protocol to 16.

The league said Calgary’s “return to game play is being delayed at least through Saturday” following discussions among medical experts. Calgary’s training facilities were closed to players until further notice.

Four teams — Calgary, Carolina, Ottawa and the New York Islanders — have had outbreaks force game postponements, a total of 10 in all. But alongside that is a growing number of affected players, who under typical COVID-19 guidance would be tested at least every 72 hours if vaccinated.

The person told AP the omicron variant is responsible for the uptick in cases, and is expected to become the dominant strain if the outbreak continues.

More than 140 NHL players have been on the protocol list this season — including more than two dozen in the last two days — in a league that has proudly noted all but one of its approximately 700 players are considered fully vaccinated even if booster shots are not mandated. It is a discouraging trend for the league, which plans to allow its players to participate in the Winter Olympics in China in February unless COVID-19 disruptions prove to be too much.

The NHL has until Jan. 10 to opt-out of the Winter Games without financial penalty, but retains the right to cancel its plans up until players are scheduled to travel to Beijing.

One issue for players is pinning down quarantine protocols should an athlete test positive in China, with some players express concern that they could last up to five weeks.

The NHL and NHLPA are also seeking clarity on where an athlete would be required to quarantine, the person told AP.

“I’d love to go and I’d love to compete,” said Toronto star Auston Matthews, who is American. “But there’s definitely some things that a lot of us would like to see worked out.”

In Boston, Patrice Bergeron became the third Bruins player in two days to enter the protocol, following leading scorer Brad Marchand and fellow forward Craig Smith. All three could be out until late December; coach Bruce Cassidy, who tested positive Nov. 30, just rejoined the team on Monday.

In Nashville, the Predators said coach John Hynes, two assistants and six players, including Mikael Granlund and Ryan Johansen, were now in COVID-19 protocol. The news came one day before the Predators were scheduled to host Colorado.

Ontario government officials said the venue restrictions was intended “to reduce opportunities for close contact in high-risk indoor settings with large crowds and when masks are not always worn.”

In the Ontario Hockey League, the Erie Otters suspended team activities Wednesday after 13 players tested positive for COVID-19. Two Erie games later this week were postponed.


The Canadian Press contributed to this report.


More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Patrice Motsepe speaks during a news confe...
Associated Press

Guinea removed as host of 2025 African Cup in latest switch

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — The African soccer confederation has removed Guinea as host of the 2025 African Cup of Nations because of inadequate infrastructure, the latest in a series of switches and delays for the continental championship over the last 10 years. The decision was announced late Friday night and after Confederation of […]
1 day ago
Gold medalists the United States hold their trophy as they celebrate on the podium after defeating ...
Associated Press

US women win fourth straight gold at World Cup, top China

SYDNEY (AP) — The names on the U.S. team have changed, the Americans’ dominance has not. A’ja Wilson scored 19 points, Kelsey Plum added 17 and the United States beat China 83-61 on Saturday to win its fourth consecutive gold medal at the women’s basketball World Cup. “It feels great,” said Wilson, who was selected […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Brumfield TD run sparks UNLV over New Mexico 31-20

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Doug Brumfield threw for 233 yards and ran for a second-half touchdown as UNLV scored 24 unanswered points and beat New Mexico 31-20 on Friday night. Brumfield rolled to his left before diving over a defender and into the end zone from six yards out to tie the game 17-17 midway […]
1 day ago
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) stiff-arms Washington linebacker Carson Bruener durin...
Associated Press

Thompson-Robinson leads UCLA past No. 15 Washington, 40-32

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Dorian Thompson-Robinson had read and heard the comments about UCLA’s unbeaten start not meaning much due to the quality of opponents it played. On Friday night, Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins made sure to make a statement with their first victory over a top-15 team since 2014. Thompson-Robinson passed for 315 yards […]
1 day ago
Fans watch as New York Yankees' Aaron Judge comes to bat during the third inning of the team's base...
Associated Press

Yankees star Judge tries again for AL-record 62nd home run

A look at Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees as he approaches major home run milestones: Season HR Total: 61 Friday’s Game: Went 1 for 2 with two walks in a 2-1 loss to Baltimore. Judge also is bidding for the first Triple Crown since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. Judge leads the AL […]
1 day ago
San Francisco Giants' Evan Longoria (10) celebrates with Mike Yastrzemski (5) after hitting a two-r...
Associated Press

Longoria 2 HRs, 5 RBIs, Giants win 10 of 11, beat Dbacks

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Evan Longoria homered twice and drove in five runs as the San Francisco Giants beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 10-4 Friday night for their 10th win in 11 games. Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Wynns also went deep as San Francisco (79-78) moved above .500 for the first time since Aug. 17. The […]
1 day ago
AP source: NHL reintroducing enhanced COVID-19 restrictions