Sports·DEC 28 COVID RDUP

NHL postpones 9 games in Canadian cities due to pandemic attendance restrictions

The National Hockey League says it will be rescheduling nine upcoming games involving Canadian teams due to COVID-19 attendance restrictions in certain Canadian cities.

Game between Detroit and Islanders postponed because of COVID-19 protocol

The seats are empty at an NHL game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Dec.16. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
  • NHL rescheduling 9 Canadian games
  • Final 2 Rivalry Series games cancelled
  • Kyrie Irving out of COVID protocol
  • NFL reduces quarantine time, Colts' Wentz enters COVID protocols
  • OHL postpones 7 games

The National Hockey League says it will be rescheduling nine upcoming games involving Canadian teams due to COVID-19 attendance restrictions in certain Canadian cities.

The league says four home games featuring the Montreal Canadiens — Jan. 4 vs. Washington, Jan. 6 vs. Toronto, Jan. 8 vs. Buffalo and Jan. 10 vs. Columbus — will be moved to yet-to-be-determined dates later this season when restrictions may be eased or lifted.

As well, the Bruins-Canadiens game slated for Jan. 12 at Montreal's Bell Centre is being moved to Boston. The league says a make-up home date in Montreal will be announced at a later date.

Two Winnipeg Jets' home games — Jan. 8 vs. Seattle and Jan. 10 vs. Minnesota — will also be rescheduled, as will the New Year's Eve games featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Ottawa Senators and the Jets at the Calgary Flames.

The Toronto Maple Leafs' Jan. 3 home game vs. Carolina will also require a make-up date.

The Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks were left out of the league's rescheduling announcement.

Also Tuesday, the NHL announced it had postponed Wednesday's Detroit Red Wings-New York Islanders game on Long Island due to COVID-related issues affecting both clubs.

Final 2 Rivalry Series games cancelled

Two hockey games between the Canadian and U.S. women's hockey teams in Alberta have been cancelled

Canada and the U.S. were scheduled to conclude their Rivalry Series on Jan. 3 in Edmonton during the world junior men's hockey championship and Jan. 6 in Red Deer.

Both games were called off because several Canadian players and staff were in COVID-19 protocol, Hockey Canada said Tuesday in a statement.

"The risk associated with playing the final two Rivalry Series games with less than one month before our teams are set to compete in the 2022 Olympics is too high to finish our series with the United States," said Gina Kingsbury, director of hockey operations with Hockey Canada.

"Changing our schedule and not being able to play the United States is always difficult, as our players and staff want to play against international competition and put on a great show for hockey fans.

"Unfortunately, we need to do what is right for our athletes from a health perspective and for our team preparation in order to ensure everyone remains healthy and eligible for Beijing."

WATCH | World juniors tournament kicks off amid Omicron surge: 

World Junior hockey championship kick off amid Omicron surge

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The World Junior hockey championship is underway in Alberta, where arenas are limited to 50 per cent capacity and players and officials are confined to a 'bubble' with regular COVID-19 testing. But some infectious disease experts say there shouldn’t be any spectators allowed inside at all.

The announcement came the same day the U.S. junior men's team forfeited a preliminary-round game at the under-20 championship to Switzerland because two American players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

What was a nine-game series between the Canadian and American women to help both prepare for February's Winter Olympics in Beijing and choose a roster for it was limited to six games.

Canada won four of the six games played against the U.S., including two in overtime.

A game scheduled for Dec. 20 in Saint Paul, Minn., was also cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.

Hockey Canada was expected to name its 23-player Olympic roster that same week, but has delayed that announcement.

Kyrie Irving exits COVID protocol

Kyrie Irving is a step closer to making his season debut.

The Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets announced Tuesday that Irving, along with Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, have cleared the NBA's health and safety protocols — a major step toward getting them back on the court.

Irving has not played this season, largely because of his decision not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and the Nets initially not being willing to have the perennial All-Star with them on a part-time basis. Irving has not been eligible to play home games because of a local rule in New York requiring vaccinations, and he and the Nets decided earlier this month that having him back — even if only for road games — will allow the team "to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster."

Durant hasn't played since Dec. 16, but he has missed only three games so far because the Nets had three others postponed due to their virus issues. Aldridge has not played since Dec. 12, missing five games.

NFL reducing quarantine time, Wentz enters protocols

The NFL is reducing isolation time for players who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, including unvaccinated players, to five days from 10.

The league and the NFL Players Association revised the protocols on Tuesday after the CDC changed its guidelines for those who are asymptomatic, recommending a five-day isolation period and masking over the second five days.

The changes could allow Colts quarterback Carson Wentz to return for Sunday's key game against Las Vegas after Indianapolis placed him on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

It was not immediately clear whether Wentz, who is unvaccinated, tested positive for the virus or was deemed a close contact to someone else who had tested positive. However, if Wentz has no symptoms, he could be cleared to play.

In a memo sent to teams and obtained by The Associated Press, players and essential football personnel can return under the following conditions:

— Five days have passed since a positive COVID-19 test.

— At least 24 hours have passed since the individual last had a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.

— Other symptoms, including a cough, have resolved or improved.

— The club's head primary care sports medicine physician, after consultation with Infection Control for Sports and notification of the NFL chief medical officer, determines that the individual may return to the club facility and interact with other club employees/contractors.

— Any local regulations or requirements are satisfied.

Fully vaccinated individuals may continue to "test out" of isolation sooner than five days after the positive test, and should stop testing at Day 5 and return under the updated guidance, assuming all other perquisites have been satisfied.

Sam Ehlinger is in line for the starting nod on Sunday if Wentz is unable to play. Ehlinger, 23, has yet to throw a pass in three games this season since being selected by Indianapolis in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Texas.

"You've always got a plan, just like any other position," Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said Tuesday. "We have that separate call sheet ready to go. ... [Sam is] ready to go."

OHL postpones 7 games

Seven upcoming Ontario Hockey League games have been postponed due to COVID-19.

The league says the Barrie Colts and Peterborough Petes have been placed in health and safety protocols.

Barrie has suspended team activities, resulting in the postponement of five games while Peterborough will have three upcoming games rescheduled.

An update on the new dates will be released by the OHL once they are confirmed.

The OHL made the announcement on Tuesday, hours before the Colts were supposed to play in Owen Sound.

Barrie's game in Peterborough on Thursday, is the second game to be postponed.

Also rescheduled was Friday's games between Hamilton and the Colts, as well as Peterborough's matchup in Niagara.

The Petes' game on Saturday against the IceDogs, Barrie's contest in Owen Sound on Jan. 5, and the Colts' matchup against North Bay on Jan. 8 have also been postponed.

With files from The Associated Press and Field Level Media

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