The NHL is reportedly making some big schedule changes in the immediate future. Aside from two scheduled games tonight, the league as a whole will shut down until December 26th (for player testing only), with games resuming Tuesday the 27th.
NHL taking its Christmas break early, sources tell ESPN.— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) December 21, 2021
Just 2 games scheduled until Dec. 27: Caps at Flyers (ESPN+) & TBL at VGK, both tmrw.
Caps & TBL have already traveled. Caps still have key COVID absences (Backstrom, Oshie, Kuzy). Hayes pulled from Philly practice today.
This is not official from the NHL yet, however the breadth across the hockey media which this story broke yesterday evening, with all of ESPN, TSN, and Sportsnet quoting sources who all said the same thing, makes it sound like the news has already been disseminated out to at least the GM level of every team.
It appears the hope is this pause will allow teams to reset back to a zero-COVID state, or as near as possible to that. It will also allow a handful of players to come back from regular injuries to shore up the ranks before play resumes. How they will hold that state is of course the important question, if it hasn’t already been answered in whispers from players saying they want the league to move from a “soft-zero COVID” state to a “live with COVID” state, where they can play through while having COVID if they feel able to, regardless of whether that means they would pass on the virus to others. The money motivation for this is already documented; the players face a possibility that even a brief week of cancelled games could put this season’s actual contract salaries once again way over 50% of HRR, meaning money in escrow will be all sent back to the teams instead of a share to the players, and they will also be one further season away from paying back what they borrowed from escrow last season. That single Habs game played without fans a few days ago probably cost them several hundred thousand dollars right there.
That leads to the next item reported yesterday, that NHL player participation in the Olympics is not happening.
Sources confirm the February break in the #NHL schedule, originally for the Olympics, will now be used to play make up games for all games taken off the board.— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) December 21, 2021
As noted above, none of this is official until it’s published by the NHL, but it sounds like that is coming as early as today. The league using the Olympic break for playing games has been said to be tricky, as some venues are already booked, but at least they are not primarily broadcast in the US on the same network that also hosts the Olympics anymore, so they can try to monetise those games by going up against Olympic curling on NBC or something.
The Toronto Maple Leafs first game back will be Monday the 27th, hosting the Blue Jackets here in Toronto. That game, if played, would be under the new Ontario rules of 50% capacity, and no food service in the building. That’s kind of a deal breaker for me. I mean who wants to watch a Leafs game without some sushi and a glass of wine in the platinums?
There is some small bit of Leafs news out from yesterday regarding Mitch Marner.
Just learned that if he’s healthy, Mitch Marner can play #Leafs next game despite being on LTIR and missing only 6 games … The 4 missed because of COVID count towards the 10/24 requirement of LTIR … Apparently it was the case last year, too. I just didn’t encounter it.— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) December 21, 2021
As long as he can stay free of COVID, he’s back in the lineup and some shuffling of the lines will have to happen once again.
So that’s pretty much all the news for now, with everything about to shut down, there won’t be much to talk about, but the World Junior Championship is about to begin so long as the teams don’t bring Omicron into the bubble in Edmonton. We should see Team Canada practicing there as early as this weekend. Here is our coverage on that:
In the meantime, here’s Cam Talbot with the goof of the week from last night’s game in Dallas.