NHL's COVID Concerns, World Junior Representation, Eating Dirt, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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NHL’s COVID Concerns, World Junior Representation, Eating Dirt, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Yesterday was one of the worst days for the NHL as far as players testing positive for COVID and landing in the league’s protocols. Over a 36-hour span, some two dozens players and staff members were placed in COVID protocols and more are expected around the league today. This is not just an NHL problem either. The NBA and NFL are both also seeing spikes in positive COVID cases in their leagues as infection rates in North America are increasing as we move deeper into winter and the holiday season.

The NHL is looking into what needs to be done to address the spike in players landing in protocols.

•   Last night, the NHL and NHLPA moved up a scheduled call to address potentially changing or adding protocols to try to avoid more players becoming COVID-positive.

•   Late into the evening, it appeared the league would be adding more measures to protect its players and team staff members.

•   But, as we sit right now, the details of what those measures might be are not yet clear. According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the league is currently not considering a pause to the season.

•   More from ESPN’s Emily Kaplan on potential protocol changes.

•   Another measure that could come back, or would make sense to come back, would be the Taxi Squads we saw last season. While it would likely not be in favor of some minor league clubs to lose players from their roster, it would allow the NHL clubs to have players ready to join their teams in the case of having an unexpected number of players land in NHL protocols.

•   Without the Taxi Squads, and if the number of players testing positive continues to grow, we may run into a situation where a team has to play short.

•   With the increase in player concerns surrounding the Olympics and now the increase in players contracting COVID domestically, it feels safe to say that NHL participation in the Olympics is as good as dead. So what happens to that three-week break in the NHL schedule after the All-Star break?

•   Oh, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron joins teammate Brad Marchand in COVID protocol.

•   And I don’t think we’ll see the Calgary Flames playing any time soon, either…

•   All of this sucks. I don’t like writing about a global health crisis as such as you probably don’t like reading about it. But this is the intersection of the world and sports that we are living in. The good news in all of this, if you want to look at it that way, is that the NHL is nearly 100% vaccinated, if not actually 100%. So players testing positive now is much different than when we were watching the 2020 bubble postseason or last season before the vaccine was as widely available as it became to the public. Players are not getting as sick as they were before, if at all. It goes to show that getting the vaccine, which for the 1000th time does not prevent COVID, makes it much more manageable person to person and prevents someone from getting so sick that they end up in the hospital or ICU. Get the vaccine. Get the booster. Wear a mask.

•   If you’re like Calvin de Haan, maybe eat some dirt too.

•   (This is not medical advice. I am not a doctor, nor do I advocate for eating dirt.)

•   Fun to see the United Center getting into the holiday spirit.

•   The Blackhawks are getting into the spirit, too. Alex DeBrincat seems less impressed with Marc-André Fleury’s gift-wrapping skills than he is with his goaltending skills.

•   To my standards, that’s not a half-bad wrapping job.

•   Maybe Marc-André Fleury isn’t the one who wraps the gifts in his house. But his skills in wrapping are surpassed by those of his on-ice work and his home life. As his wife writes, Fleury is as genuine at home as he is in the public eye.

•   Hard not to like this guy.

•   Some good news for the Blackhawks as Jujhar Khaira seems to be doing better after suffering a concussion after a hit to the head from Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba.

•   Even better news, WGN broadcaster Troy Murray is returning to the booth tonight!

•   Amazing to see the support for Murray being poured out by the Blackhawks community as Murray continues his cancer battle.

•   Yesterday, Team USA announced their Men’s World Junior Championships roster. Three Blackhawks prospects will be heading to Canada with Team USA, looking to defend their 2021 Gold Medal.

•   Landon Slaggert, Drew Commesso, and Wyatt Kaiser will likely be the only three Chicago prospects headed to the World Junior Championships with Lukas Reichel left off Team Germany’s roster and Michael Krutil currently injured, even though he was on the Czech preliminary roster.

•   Yesterday it was made official that goaltender Ben Bishop’s playing career was over. After dealing with a knee injury, Bishop’s conditioning assignment to the AHL saw him give up eight goals and it was evident he was not going to be able to continue playing.

•   Bishop is one of 35 NHL goaltenders to play at least 400 games since the 2005-06 season and is in a three-way tie for first among them with a .921 save-percentage.

•   I’ll never forget the Blackhawks playing against Bishop in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final when he was with the Lightning and him battling through two torn groin injuries. That’s just insane.

•   When we talk about F-you money, this is what we mean…

•   Must be nice.

•   Really cool news from the ECHL yesterday as they will have members of both the PHF and PWHPA participating in their ECHL All-Star Classic this year.

•   Players from both organizations playing in the same event is a big deal. Maybe, just maybe, this can be the first of many joint events for the two leagues and they can eventually come together? Would be nice.

•   As for the Women’s U.S. Olympic Hockey roster, it appears we have our final cuts made.

•   Illinois-natives Megan Bozek, Savannah Harmon, Jesse Compher, Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Hilary Knight, and Abbey Murphy have all made Team USA ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all have a good Wednesday ahead of you!

•   We will see you tonight for Blackhawks-Capitals at 7:00 p.m. CT.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.