According to ESPN, the NHL will launch a leaguewide shutdown on Wednesday due to a rise of positive Covid-19 test findings among players around the league.
Five more games will be postponed due to the start of the annual holiday break two days early, bringing the total number of games postponed this season to 49.
Two games scheduled for Tuesday will still take place as planned.
In a joint statement issued on Sunday, the league and the NHL Players’ Association said they were striving to prevent a leaguewide shutdown and were making choices on a team-by-team basis. The new schedule change allows all 32 teams to take a long vacation before reuniting on Sunday to skate and undergo coronavirus testing.
The Christmas break normally restricts team activities before the 27th of December, according to the collective bargaining agreement. The games are still set to resume on that day.
The latest round of coronavirus-related closures on Monday resulted in the closure of ten teams’ facilities. The delta and omicron strains have spread across North America, resulting in 44 postponements in the last two weeks.
More than a quarter of the league’s 700-plus players are in viral protocol, and the consequent scheduling disruption has all but eliminated the league’s chances of competing in the Olympics. The final decision on the Beijing Olympics is due this week, and NHL players’ chances of returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2014 have sunk.
On Monday, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers, and Ottawa Senators joined the list of clubs that have suspended all operations due to positive Covid-19 testing. The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, and Toronto Maple Leafs have all shuttered their facilities, with the Calgary Flames reopening theirs to non-protocol players, coaches, and staff.
A pre-Olympic game between the US and Canadian women’s hockey teams was scheduled for Monday night in St Paul, Minnesota, however it was postponed due to Covid-19 concerns.
Much remains unknown about the omicron coronavirus variety, such as whether it produces more or less severe sickness. Scientists believe that omicron spreads faster than other coronavirus strains, such as delta, and that it will become prevalent in the United States by early next year.
Early research suggests that those who have been vaccinated will require a booster injection to have the highest chance of preventing an omicron infection, although immunization should still provide good protection against severe disease and death even without the extra dosage.