The National Hockey League announced it would pause its current season due to the number of postponed games caused by a COVID-19 outbreak.
All operations will shut down until at least Dec. 26, the league announced following an agreement with the National Hockey League Player’s Association.
At least 44 games were canceled because of a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases among those involved with the teams. Four of the games that were set for Dec. 22 have been postponed, as have 10 of the 15 games scheduled for Dec. 23. At least 12 games were postponed because they required teams to cross the U.S.-Candian border.
“With the number one priority of maintaining the health and safety of our NHL community, and amid changing and unpredictable conditions, we are determined to remain flexible and adaptable both in terms of scheduling and in adjusting Protocols as necessary,” the NHL and the NHLPA said in a joint statement.
The organizations said they are also “actively discussing the matter of NHL Player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, and expect to be in a position to announce a final determination in the coming days.”
The list of teams temporarily shut down because of confirmed COVID-19 cases include the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers.
Under the league’s current COVID-19 protocols, “any person whose job, role, position or access entails or entitles them to have personal interactions (within 12 feet) with Club Hockey Operations personnel (including Players) must be Fully Vaccinated.”
Among this group are athletic trainers, on and off ice officials, bus drivers, photographers, media members, food service personnel and club executives.
If a player tests positive for COVOID-19, they have to be declared “unfit to play” by the Club Physician.
“If the Player is Fully Vaccinated or if the Player is not vaccinated for medical reasons or because doing so would conflict with his sincerely held religious beliefs,” the test is treated as a play-related injury for the purposes of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. COIVD-19 contracted by unvaccinated players is not considered a play-related injury.
“The League’s COVID-19 Protocol is, like the NBA and the NFL’s, significantly punishing and discriminatory against the unvaccinated. In one example, 50 percent of the costs of testing, quarantine, and single room hotel accommodations ‘shall be treated as Player Benefits and charged against the Players’ Share,’” per Vision Times.
Tyler Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings is the only unvaccinated player in the NHL. The 26-year-old, who is unable to travel with his team to games in Canada, has defended his decision to forego the vaccine.
“It’s a personal choice, freedom of choice, and life choice,” Bertuzzi said in September.
During an on-ice altercation at a game on Dec. 18, New Jersey defenseman Noah Geertsen appeared to try to use Bertuzzi’s vaccination status as an insult.
“Go get vaccinated,” the player said.
“Go get vaccinated, go get vaccinated.” – Mason Geertsen’s chirps to Tyler Bertuzzi tonight 💀 pic.twitter.com/IuHeo2THPy
— Josh (@joshlangerr) December 19, 2021
Over 100 players are currently on the league’s COVID protocol list. The NHL will resume the seasons on Dec. 27 with 14 games.