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.
Just talked to someone in the NHL league office.
As of now, there’s been no discussions about pausing the season due to COVID cases.
NHL & NHLPA have a regularly scheduled call (will happen tonight or tomorrow) where they will discuss if there’s a need to enhance protocols.
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) December 14, 2021
• Late into the evening, it appeared the league would be adding more measures to protect its players and team staff members.
We will have more in the 2nd intermission of the Leafs/Oilers game. Pending final decision from a medical conf call involving NHL and PA doctors, it’s likely enhanced protocols will be implemented on a League-wide basis for a period of time. Final details being worked out.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 15, 2021
• 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.
NHL/NHLPA still in the process of discussing enhanced protocols and have another call scheduled for today
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 15, 2021
• More from ESPN’s Emily Kaplan on potential protocol changes.
With rash of COVID cases in the NHL this week — including nearly the entire Flames roster — expect NHL & NHLPA to announce enhanced protocols.
Daily testing, mandatory masks, limited community interactions.
Many NHL players have been boosted, but league hasn’t mandated it.
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) December 15, 2021
• 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.
At the very least you gotta bring back taxi squads, right? I'm not sure how the league can stumble on at this rate with no changes to protocol
— Sara Civ (@SaraCivian) December 14, 2021
• 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.
Emergency Roster Exception: For every 1 player the team plays short for 1 game, they can call up a player with cap hit $850K or less & they carry $0 cap hit while team doesn't have enough players or enough cap space.
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) December 14, 2021
• 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?
If NHL players skip the Olympics, what happens to the schedule in February?
On the “logistical nightmare” on trying to shoehorn an NHL revised schedule into the currently planned Olympic break. https://t.co/sXxBq2week
— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) December 15, 2021
• Oh, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron joins teammate Brad Marchand in COVID protocol.
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) December 15, 2021
• And I don’t think we’ll see the Calgary Flames playing any time soon, either…
#Flames added 17 people to the Covid-19 protocol today, including 7 more players, 3 coaches and 7 support staff.
It may be a while before we see #Flames back on the ice again.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) December 15, 2021
• 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.
Calvin de Haan says he’ll get the COVID-19 booster shot at some point, then joked that he “ate a lot of dirty as a kid.” pic.twitter.com/nozPnOy80I
— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) December 14, 2021
• (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.
Making our home merry and bright 🎄😍 pic.twitter.com/2LEtXk5MG1
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) December 15, 2021
• 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.
Cat is such a supportive teammate 😂 pic.twitter.com/eSdeYlgsI7
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) December 14, 2021
• 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.
"We have been together for almost 20 years now and, although I must admit that no, he doesn't ALWAYS smile, I can attest that he is the kindest person I have ever met."
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) December 15, 2021
• 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.
Jujhar Khaira has been around the team the last few days. Derek King said it’s been great to see him.
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) December 14, 2021
• Even better news, WGN broadcaster Troy Murray is returning to the booth tonight!
So happy to be back in the saddle at the UC in front of the best fans in the NHL for the game against the Caps with my partner John Weideman on @WGNRadio….Thank you to everyone for the amazing support as I continue my battle with Cancer. 🙏🏻❤️
— Troy Murray (@muzz19) December 15, 2021
• 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.
Three Blackhawks Prospects Named to Team USA Roster for 2022 World Junior Championshipshttps://t.co/PHC5yJdd86
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) December 14, 2021
• 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.
"And the fans, and last off, you guys, my teammates… You're really what makes this job so special."
Goaltender Ben Bishop reflects on his career. ⤵
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) December 14, 2021
• 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.
As human beings, we live for fairytale endings. Ben Bishop didn't get his but that doesn't take away from the journey, which was a generational talent.
On the legacy Bishop leaves behind as an elite goaltender and an elite teammate 👇🏽 https://t.co/mCwZbLJjSQ
— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) December 14, 2021
• 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…
Connor McDavid, big heated driveway guy 😂 pic.twitter.com/WXKJjB9aTi
— JayOnSC (@JayOnSC) December 15, 2021
• 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.
— ECHL (@ECHL) December 14, 2021
• 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.
USA Hockey has made its final three cuts to the Olympic residency roster. https://t.co/0NFzsbH3y8
— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) December 14, 2021
• 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.