The NHL’s COVID-19 Situation, and its Effect on the Olympics


Image via NHL.com


The National Hockey League announced on Monday the league would pause on December 21st, after games were completed. They began the holiday break earlier, the original starting date was Friday, December 24th. This league-wide shutdown is due to the COVID cases surging at an alarming rate. The NHL shutdown includes international games being postponed, and the only games that were allowed to be played Monday and Tuesday were games between United States teams and games between Canadian teams. No U.S.-Canadian games were allowed due to the border crossing, and the strict travel restrictions imposed on entering and leaving each country.


The Associated Press reported 15% of the 700+ players were in the virus protocol. Once a player enters the virus protocol, they are required to miss team activities for at least 10 days. However, the treat that has been exciting to see is the American Hockey League players playing in the NHL, and making an impression on the NHL clubs’ general managers. Teams had juggled lineups, such as an 11 forward and 7 defensemen lineup rather than the traditional 12 forward and 6 defensemen lineup. The Blues had to play a week’s worth of games shorthanded. They played with 17 players rather than the typical 18 players. In order to get that “emergency call-up,” the NHL requires the team play a game shorthanded.


The NHL took the right step, though, by postponing this week’s slate of games after tonight, and the teams that were scheduled to play the games across the borders are supposed to be made up during the weeks that were included for the Olympic break, as reported by Andy Strickland of Bally Sports Midwest. Strickland’s report includes that the Blues will make up games against Ottawa and Toronto at Canadian Tire Centre and the Scotiabank Centre respectively, during the weeks that make up the Olympic break. All other teams will make up their respective games during those weeks. Will the players be allowed to participate in the Olympics?


The Olympics are an honor to participate in; however, the players that participate in the Olympics are not compensated, and reported by various sources, should any player or employee catch Covid in China, they will quarantine in China, fly back to the U.S., and quarantine in the U.S. too. Since the NHL plan to play makeup games during that stretch, it may be impossible for the players and executives to fly over to China for the Olympics.


According to Yahoo Sports and other outlets, there is only one player in the NHL that is unvaccinated, it is the Red Wings’ Tyler Bertuzzi. The NHL has made the right call to begin the holiday break early, but this means the season’s end will have teams playing games with very little rest in between games. The NHL may need to force the players from participating in the Olympics to fit all eighty-two regular season games for each club.



Alex Patterson is a 3L at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. He played football for seventeen years as an offensive and defensive lineman. He graduated from Lindenwood University-Belleville in 2018 with a Bachelor's in Sports Management. He can be followed on Twitter @alpatt71.