The NHL and the NHL Players Association have been in dispute these last few months due to collective bargaining issues, but the two parties came to an easy agreement on Dec. 21, deciding that they'll temporarily shut down league play. The players will take an extended Christmas break, where the current season is expected to resume on Dec. 27.
To make matters worse, the NHL and the league’s player’s association agreed that the players will not participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. After not being in the 2018 Olympics, players were looking forward to competing in the 2022 worldwide event. With the increasing concerns surrounding COVID-19, will other sports leagues implement temporary shutdowns as well?
Why is the NHL temporarily shutting down?
The rising number of COVID-19 outbreaks for players and staff in the NHL, as well as other sports leagues, was the main reason for the NHL to take an early holiday break. The league was already going to take a break for Christmas weekend (Friday to Sunday), but now the league will take off two days earlier. There were five games originally scheduled for Dec. 23 before the announcement.
The games that were scheduled for Dec. 21 will still be played and after that, the league will shut down. The only game still scheduled for Dec. 21 is the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Washington Capitals vs. the Philadelphia Flyers game that was scheduled for that day was postponed. There were no games scheduled for Dec. 22 before the NHL made its announcement.
Along with no games being played from Dec. 22 to 25, players cannot practice or travel to facilities during the period. They are allowed to report back to their teams on Dec. 26, but it will only be for testing, practice, and/or travel.
Those who are traveling to a team facility cannot enter until they can show proof of a negative test result. The hockey league also stated that if there are any practices to be scheduled on Sundays, they cannot begin after 2:00 p.m. local time. The league currently plans to resume regular season gameplay on Dec. 27.
The temporary shutdown seemed nearly inevitable
Already 10 out of the league’s 32 teams paused team operations before the announcement was made. With more than 700 players in the league, over 15 percent of them were reportedly in the l virus protocol. Virus protocols state that if a player tests positive for COVID-19, they must self-quarantine for a certain period.
The protocol has caused games in many sports leagues to be rescheduled this year. There have been 49 games postponed for the 2021–22 NHL season, with 44 of those postponements occurring in the last two weeks.
NHL players have opted out of the Beijing Olympics
There were hopes that the players could return to a Winter Olympics for the first time since 2014. But because of the recent COVID surge, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to opt out of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. The league was going to postpone games from Feb. 3 to 22 so that the players could participate in the Winter Games, but now that the players have opted out, it’s possible that the league could use that time to make up for all of the regular season games that were previously postponed.
The players didn’t get to participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics due to budget and traveling issues. With the 2022 Winter Games itself being in jeopardy, the NHL was given a deadline of Jan. 10, 2022, to opt out of the event without receiving monetary penalties.