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Sources Say Some Teams Pushing Hard for NHL Season Pause, Others Against



Boston Bruins

Is an NHL Pause amid a league-wide COVID outbreak imminent and unavoidable?

Could the Winter Classic be the next game we see?

That’s been the feel across the NHL Saturday as the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators joined the Calgary Flames on a growing list of teams that have been shut down until after Christmas.

Boston Hockey Now has learned that ever since the Quebec government required that the Montreal Canadiens play the Philadelphia Flyers with no fans at the Bell Centre Thursday, there has been growing pressure from NHL team executives and the NHLPA that unless teams could play in front of normal attendance and avoid empty arenas for games, they would prefer the league take a pause until after the holiday break. Playing in front of empty or even half-full arenas, as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators must now do, means lost HRR for team owners and players. Instead, if the league decides to just postpone all games now until after Christmas, that lost revenue can at least be recouped when the rescheduled games take place.

The way things were going Saturday though indicated another COVID pause could be even longer as one NHL executive actually told BHN that there’s been talk of shutting down until January 1. Sportsnet Insider Elliotte Friedman has since speculated as much on Hockey Night Canada.

“I have heard that we might shut down until Jan 1,” the source said in a text to BHN.

That same source said he would be fine if the NHL did that in order to regroup and adjust to this very fluid situation.

That seems to be the sentiment across the NHL right now as more games continue to be postponed amidst more positive player cases.

“I just don’t see the point right now,” one NHL agent said to BHN Saturday. “My guys want to play through this of course but they all think we need to just regroup, get a plan and then move ahead.”

There was even some talk from one NHL exec that considering what may happen with border restriction soon, could the NHL ever go back to regional and an all-Canadian division?

A BHN-trusted source though laughed that off pretty quickly.

So with the developing news of a potential league-wide pause on Saturday, what does this mean as far as NHLers traveling to Beijing in February for the Olympics?

“I can’t tell you anything for certain right now but a lot of my guys that could be going are starting to lean towards not going,” the same agent said.

An NHL source later stressed to BHN that “its literally hour by hour” Saturday night.

While the NHL has not indicated publicly that another COVID pause is imminent, they did announce that they and the NHLPA have agreed to implement ‘enhanced’ COVID protocol until at least January 7. This includes the following guidelines:

  • Wearing masks at all times inside Club facilities and during travel, including when on buses, planes, and at the hotel (unless exercising, participating in a game, or eating or drinking).
  • Physical distancing for meals (at least one empty chair) in both at the Club’s home market and on the road.
  • While on the road, a prohibition against eating or drinking in indoor restaurants, bars, and similar establishments open to the public (including at Club hotel facilities) except in a private room or in a cordoned-off area. Other diners may not be seated within 12 feet of the members of the traveling party, and serving staff must be masked when providing them service. While with the team on the road, other permissible options for dining are outdoor dining; eating and drinking in the Club’s private meal room at the hotel; ordering room service, and third-party food delivery services
  • Virtual meetings, or only brief in-person meetings in large well-ventilated spaces.
  • Restricting access to the locker room and Player bench area while occupied by the Players and individuals in the Club Travelling Party, to only Players and members of the Club Traveling Party. Other individuals shall not enter these spaces even if Fully Vaccinated, while Players or other members of the Club Traveling Party are present.
  • Avoid the use of public transportation.
  • Both when you are in your home market and during travel, it is strongly recommended that the members of the Club Travelling Party (and their household members) reduce their interactions with the community as much as possible. It is also strongly recommended that you refrain from indoor dining in a restaurant or drinking in a bar (other than in a private room or in an area cordoned off from other patrons), or inside a home with others who are not in your household. Holiday celebrations, which typically involve eating and drinking while unmasked, raise significant risks and should be limited to the greatest extent possible. All individuals should limit both the number of people and the number of different households to which they are exposed.
  • As a reminder, Club-organized holiday parties are not permitted, and until further notice, members of the Club Travelling Party are prohibited from participating in autograph sessions open to the public, public speaking engagements and public charity events.

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