When the pandemic started, the NHL took appropriate precautions by completing the 2019-2020 season in a bubble. This bubble had two hub cities, i.e., Toronto for Eastern Conference teams and Edmonton for Western Conference teams. Each hub city had a Team Personnel assigned to a hotel floor.
Club members were only allowed to visit designated locations like practice facilities and dining destinations. The games were played at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena and Edmonton’s Rogers Place without spectators. The season ended without any reported case of COVID-19.
During preparations for the 2021 NHL season, there was an announcement that the coming NHL season would not be applying the bubble-closed door concept. They would, however, be following a set of protocols to prevent the spread of the virus. Looking at what has transpired since the season started, the bubble would have been a better option.
Before the season officially started, some teams began reporting cases. On November 23rd, 2020, the Vegas Golden Knights announced that a minimum of four players had tested positive for the virus. This unfortunate announcement was followed by another outbreak announcement by the Columbus Blue Jackets. They confirmed that many of their players had come down with the virus.
In hindsight, the outbreaks were just beginning. With only five days left until the first game of the 2021 season, the National Hockey League announced that Dallas Stars, the defending Western Conference Champion, would not play during the season due to an outbreak. The Outbreak occurred during their training camp with 17 players infected with the virus.
Since then, the outbreaks have not diminished in the league. As of February 17th, NHL has ruled seven more teams out of action because of an outbreak. At this time, 35 games had already been postponed. The NHL COVID-19 List already enlisted a minimum of 124 players. This list consisted of players who had already tested positive, and those at risk due to close contact with an infected person. It also included the names of players who were in quarantine after being traded.
NHL has tried to take proactive measures to curb the spread of the virus amongst its teams. Apart from the usual health and safety protocols, NHL introduced the rapid game-day test. There are also rules regarding injury treatments and the use of team benches.
Yet, COVID-19 has struck a significant blow to the NHL’s plans for this season. Several games have been suspended thanks to the increased number of cases. Eighteen games were postponed before February 2nd, 26 games in total last February, and a total of 46 games to date.
With the state of things presently, NHL is working on more stringent pandemic protocols. Plus, there’s a plan to use the bubble for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We can only hope that the protocols would effectively reduce the spread of the virus caused by the games, and things would get back to normal.