The NHL has announced that Saturday’s game between the Canadiens and Bruins in Montreal has been postponed.
No makeup date has been announced, and the Canadiens will play on Monday when they visit the Islanders at UBS Arena.
The latest NHL postponement comes a day after the Canadiens played the Flyers in front of an empty crowd at Bell Centre, as per request by Quebec public health officials. The province reported nearly 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the highest total since Jan. 3.
Following the Habs’ 3-2 win, Jonathan Drouin expressed concerns about the recent spate of outbreaks in the NHL and with playing against a Bruins team that reported seven players in COVID-19 protocol Thursday.
“[I] wouldn’t be that comfortable playing with guys who might have COVID or against a team that’s had seven cases; [Friday] morning there might be three more or two more, we don’t know,” Drouin said. “I don’t feel comfortable playing with that. It’s not what we were told this year with the vaccines and all that. For sure, things change in times like this, but it’s really not ideal.”
The Bruins are scheduled to play in Ottawa on Sunday.
Cases rising around the league
As more and more cases were reported on Thursday, Predators forward Nick Cousins took to Twitter to pose halting the season until after the Christmas break.
Pause the season until after Christmas ? This is ridiculous https://t.co/4Lyekdd906
— Nick Cousins (@Cous27) December 16, 2021
Cousins is one of 12 Predators players and staff currently in COVID-19 protocol.
As the number of cases continues to rise, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be more postponements. The league does have a three-day break next weekend, but will empty arenas like what we saw in Montreal, or ones with reduced capacity, like what Ontario will experience beginning Saturday, come next to try and help slow the spread?
“For sure, today was a wake-up call with no fans in the stands,” Drouin said. “We weren’t expecting that this year with the vaccines. We were told it wouldn’t happen, so to see that tonight, it’s tough to see. There was no ambience, no energy. But again, I think people’s health is more important than a hockey game.”
At what point does the NHL consider a pause? What is the number of cases needed to force that decision? There were around 60 players in COVID-19 protocol Thursday, not including a number of coaches and staff around the league. With gameday rosters being affected by the absences, will teams get special exemptions for emergency call-ups?
There are many questions that are needing answers.
“When you get to 60 to 80 players who have COVID, that’s a big percentage of our league,” Drouin said. “I don’t think it’s good for hockey either when a team is missing five or six players — it takes away from the NHL. It will be up to the league to make a decision on whether we stop playing for a bit, but I would tell you it’s really not ideal.”