NHL to pause season early as COVID-19 surges nationwide

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The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have agreed to postpone five games Thursday, the day before the holiday break.

The two remaining games on the schedule will be played Tuesday; the Washington Capitals will play at the Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, NHL LIVE) and the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Vegas Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET; SN360, SN-joined in progress, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, BSSUN, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

With no games scheduled Wednesday because of COVID-19 related postponements, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to postpone the five games that remained scheduled for Thursday, in order to begin the collectively-bargained holiday break effective with the conclusion of games Tuesday, bringing the total number of games postponed this season to 49.

Under the revised schedule, Dec. 22, 23, 24 and 25 (Christmas Day) shall be off days for all purposes, including travel.

The decision comes one day after the NHL announced the Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens would be shut down through the holiday break, and that four more games had been postponed — the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday and Thursday, and games Tuesday between the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins, and Seattle Kraken and Arizona Coyotes.

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The Blue Jackets and Canadiens were the eighth and ninth teams be shut down through the holiday break, joining the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers.

On Sunday, NHL announced that cross-border games will be postponed through the holiday break, a decision made due to the concern about cross-border travel and “the fluid nature of federal travel restrictions.”

Players will report back to their teams Sunday, which shall be used for testing, practice and/or travel only. Upon return from the holiday break to team facilities, no individual in the team’s traveling party shall enter the facility (other than for testing purposes) until they have a negative test result. Any practice scheduled for Sunday must begin after 2 p.m. local time.

The NHL announced new protocols for teams and players Saturday and is in the process of reviewing and revising the regular-season schedule.

Because of the amount of games that have been postponed this season and the continuing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, the NHL and NHLPA are actively discussing whether players should participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

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An announcement is expected in the coming days.