NHL Will Keep Florida, Colorado From Play For a Week Because of COVID Outbreak in League

The NHL will halt play for the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche due to a COVID outbreak in the league.

All games for the two teams have been postponed until Christmas weekend at least. The Calgary Flames also had their postponement extended through the holiday break.

The league cited "concern with the number of positive cases within the last two days as well concern for continued COVID spread in the coming days" as the training facilities for all three teams were closed.

Over 60 players are in the NHL COVID protocols, and 19 of them are from the Flames. Except for Detroit's Tyler Bertuzzi, all players on active rosters in the league are fully vaccinated. Although, it is unknown how many have been inoculated with the COVID booster shot.

"The fact that we only shut down two additional teams means we are trying to avoid a full league shutdown," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press in an email. He wrote that is "obviously subject to change based on circumstances."

The latest announcement raises the number of NHL games delayed this season to 20.

During the first two months of the season, only five games were postponed, with one having already been rescheduled and played. NHL's Players' Association executive director Don Fehr said as recently as last week that the league has "been able to cope" with the few postponements so far.

However, the new halt postponed six games for the Flames, four for the Avalanche, and three for the Panthers.

NHL, COVID Outbreak, Game Postponements
In this Feb. 15, 2020, file photo, fans pose below the NHL league logo at a display outside Falcon Stadium before an NHL Stadium Series outdoor hockey game between the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche, at Air Force Academy, Colo. The NHL announced Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, that it was postponing all games for the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers through at least next weekend amid worsening COVID-19 test results across the league. David Zalubowski/AP Photo, File

The NHL hours earlier announced Saturday's game in Montreal between the Canadiens and Boston was being postponed. There was no word from the league on the Bruins' game Sunday at Ottawa, which like Toronto and other cities in Ontario is capping venue capacity at 50 percent based on provincial health mandates.

The Canadiens beat Philadelphia on Thursday night in a mostly empty Bell Centre because of the rise of COVID-19 cases in Quebec.

The Bruins were without seven players because of COVID-19 protocol — including stars Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron — for Thursday night's 3-1 loss at the New York Islanders. They played a man down with 11 forwards and six defensemen. Colorado players voted to go ahead with their game Thursday at Nashville, which also had several players and coaches unavailable for virus-related reasons.

The Toronto Maple Leafs canceled their practice in Vancouver on Friday for precautionary reasons after captain John Tavares and forward Alexander Kerfoot were added to the protocol.

Postponing this many games could threaten NHL participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, which begins Feb. 4. When the league and players agreed to participate, they left open the door to withdrawing if they need the two-and-a-half-week break to complete the season.

Daly said Friday there had been no decision made yet on the Olympics but pointed out the possibility is "becoming more and more difficult." The league has until Jan. 10 to withdraw without financial penalty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NHL, COVID Outbreak, Game Postponements
The new halt postponed six games for the Calgary Flames, four for the Colorado Avalanche, and three for the Florida Panthers. In this photo, Anton Lundell, #15 of the Florida Panthers, pursues Erik Johnson, #6 of the Colorado Avalanche, as he clears the puck from behind the net at the FLA Live Arena on Oct. 21, 2021, in Sunrise, Florida. Joel Auerbach/Getty Images