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NHL Hits Pause On Season During Omicron Wave

Source: Christopher Mast / Getty

The NHL became the first professional sports league in the United States to blink in the wake of the Omicron COVID-19 variant wave sweeping across the country. 

ESPN reports the NHL will hit the pause button on its season two days before its planned Christmas break, the league announced on Monday (Dec.20). The final game played was the matchup between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild. The NHL canceled Tuesday’s Washington Capitals versus Philadelphia Flyers game due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Capitals. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights game has also joined the list of the 50 other games halted by COVID-19.

All NHL team facilities will be shuttered from Wednesday through Saturday as teams try to control the outbreaks on their teams. All players will report back to their team facilities on Sunday and continue daily testing with the hopes of restarting games on December 27.

ESPN also reports the damage to the schedule is also pushing the NHL to “exercise its opt-out clause for player participation” in the Beijing Olympics and skip the winter games entirely. The NHL’s much stricter protocols begin this week with its players being subjected to daily testing to stay on top of the highly contagious Omicron COVID-19 variant. The league will also enforce social distancing measures and restrictions on where players can go when they are not home, on the road, or in the ice rink.

Currently, only one player in the NHL is unvaccinated, and that is Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi. The league recommends that its players get vaccinated and booster shorts but have stopped short of mandating the shots.

The NBA, on the other hand, is going through it. Per ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, there are now 117 players in the league’s health and safety protocols, and that number has increased since he tweeted that out.

Speaking ESPN’s Malika Andrews, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave no indication he intends on halting the season. “This virus will not be eradicated, so we have to learn to live with it,” Silver told Andrews. Silver also revealed that the Omicron variant makes up for 90% of the league’s cases, calling it “beyond dominate.”

The NBA and NBPA came to a new agreement allowing teams to sign replacement players. But, there has been chatter that the league is prepared to postpone its slate of Christmas games.

The NFL is also getting hammered by Omicron and had to postpone several weekend games and move them to Monday (Dec.20) and Tuesday (Dec.21). Just today, Kansas City Chiefs star wide receiver Tyreek Hill was among three players added to the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Things are getting really spooky again.

Photo: Christopher Mast / Getty