By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) – The NHL shut down the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators until Christmas on Saturday, bringing the number of teams in COVID-19 limbo to five. The weekend games for the Canucks and Maple Leafs have also been postponed as the league tries to control a spiraling epidemic in its locker rooms.
The NHL and its player association have agreed to daily testing and other improved protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They will take effect immediately and last until at least January 1, with a review by January 7 at the latest.
“Given the increased number of positive cases in our league over the past two weeks and the changing societal realities with the new omicron COVID-19 variant, the NHLPA and the NHL have collectively agreed that all clubs will be required to follow enhanced prevention and detection measures. “the league said in a statement.
The Bruins and Predators join Calgary, Colorado and Florida, which had previously been closed until next week due to outbreaks. Saturday night’s game between Toronto and Vancouver and Sunday’s Arizona-Vancouver and Toronto-Seattle games have also been postponed due to worsening conditions in North America due to the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told reporters on Saturday night the plan was still to get all games and have a full Stanley Cup playoffs.
“It may take times where we are now, where we need to take a step back,” he said. “But our intention is to play a full season and follow best practices. This will require adaptability.
About 70 players – 10% of the league – are in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol and the number of games postponed this season has exceeded 20. Several Canadian provinces are now or will soon limit participation in major events such as games. 50% NHL. capacity.
In addition to daily testing for players and coaches, the league said “additional pre-game testing may be implemented on a case-by-case basis when a COVID outbreak occurs within a team “.
Moments after the announcement, Detroit placed three players, coach Jeff Blashill and assistant coach Alex Tanguay in protocol ahead of Saturday night’s home game against New Jersey. The Red Wings have the only player in the league, Tyler Bertuzzi, who is unvaccinated.
The Bruins’ COVID-19 roster rose to nine players on Saturday when Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar were placed in protocol. Sweeney said the “vast majority” of players had mild symptoms and some were asymptomatic.
“One player had a day where he felt more under the weather,” he said, adding that two staff members also had symptoms considered moderate. “For the most part, everyone is doing well and going in the right direction.”
The Bruins have closed their training facilities, although players in need of treatment are allowed in. “Some guys took home gym equipment today to stay in shape, but that presents some challenges,” Sweeney said.
Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe was added to the protocol on Saturday with defensemen TJ Brodie and Travis Dermott, goaltender Jack Campbell and assistant coach Spencer Carbery on the protocol list on Saturday. Players John Tavares, Alex Kerfoot, Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds were placed on the roster on Friday.
While postponed games may be rescheduled, all eyes are on the schedule: NHL plans to allow its players to compete in the Winter Olympics in China in February – unless COVID-19-related disruption turn out to be too important.
The NHL has until Jan. 10 to withdraw from the Winter Games without financial penalty, but reserves the right to cancel plans until players make it to Beijing.
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