9 NHL Teams Hit Pause as COVID Surges Across League

As COVID surges across the league, nine NHL teams have been forced to halt all activity.

The latest teams to postpone games are the Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens due to several positive COVID tests among players. This has led to over a fourth of NHL teams halting activities at least through the weekend.

Columbus was given an activity halt due to "concern with the number of positive cases within the last several days as well as concern for continued COVID spread," the league said.

Along with the Blue Jackets and Canadiens, other teams forced to stop activity include the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, who halted on Sunday, as well as the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins.

On Monday night in Buffalo, New York, and Thursday at their home, the Blue Jackets had scheduled games that were postponed, bringing the total number of delayed NHL games to 42 this season. The team also canceled their morning skate on Monday while waiting for COVID test results, a day after canceling practice due to virus concerns.

If they are cleared by the league, the Blue Jackets may continue practice Sunday and are scheduled to face Toronto next Monday. However, games between teams on opposite sides of the U.S.-Canada border could be postponed until next week.

Approximately 10 percent of the league's players are in virus protocol. With the spread of the Delta and Omicron variants in North America, it is unlikely for the hockey players to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

NHL, COVID Outbreak, Game Postponements
Over a fourth of NHL teams have halted activities at least through the weekend due to increasing positive COVID results. In this photo, the Columbus Blue Jackets' Boone Jenner, back, protests to referee Trevor Hanson, right, after a penalty was called against Andrew Peeke during the third period of an NHL game on Tuesday, December 14, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP

The league and NHL Players' Association said Sunday the plan was to avoid a full league shutdown, pausing team activities on a case-by-case basis and postponing all cross-border games through Thursday. The Christmas break begins Friday and runs through Sunday, with games scheduled to resume next Monday.

"We will continue to play the 2021-22 regular season schedule," the NHL and NHLPA said Sunday in a joint statement. "Although there has been a recent increase in positive COVID test results among players, coaches and hockey staff, there have been a low number of positive cases that have resulted in concerning symptoms or serious illness."

Much about the Omicron coronavirus variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Scientists say Omicron spreads even easier than other coronavirus strains, including Delta, and it is expected to become dominant in the U.S. by early next year. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing an Omicron infection, but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NHL, COVID Outbreak, Game Postponements
With the spread of the Delta and Omicron variants in North America, it is unlikely for hockey players to participate in the Winter Olympics. In this photo, Alexander Romanov of the Montreal Canadiens skates the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Centre Bell on December 16 in Montreal. Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images