Flames among 3 NHL teams shut down through holiday break amid rising COVID-19 cases

The Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers have all been shut down until after the holiday break due to COVID concerns, the National Hockey League announced. Saturday's game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre has also been postponed.

Canadiens-Bruins game postponed, Leafs, Canucks add players to COVID protocol list

The Calgary Flames are among three NHL teams that have been shut down until after the holiday break due to rising COVID-19 cases. (Josie Lepe/The Associated Press)
  • NHL shuts down a trio of teams
  • Canadiens-Bruins game postponed
  • Jets to reduce home capacity
  • Leafs add four players to NHL's COVID-19 protocol
  • Motte also placed in list by Canucks 
  • NHL shuts down Flames, Avalanche and Panthers through holiday break
  • Oilers' Nugent-Hopkins added to COVID protocol
  • NFL moves 3 Week 15 games
  • U.S. athletes will not require COVID-19 booster to compete in Beijing
  • OHL bracing for more COVID-19 uncertainty with capacity reduction

The Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers have all been shut down until after the holiday break due to COVID concerns, the National Hockey League announced.

A decision on when each team's training facilities will re-open will be made by the League and the NHLPA in the coming days. The League is in the process of reviewing and revising all three teams' regular-season schedules.

As a result of the three teams being shut down, the following games have been postponed:

  • Calgary: Dec. 18 vs. Columbus; Dec. 21 vs. Anaheim; Dec. 23 vs. Seattle.
  • Colorado: Dec. 18 vs. Tampa Bay; Dec. 20 at Detroit; Dec. 22 at Buffalo; Dec. 23 at Boston.
  • Florida: Dec. 18 at Minnesota; Dec. 21 at Chicago; Dec. 23 vs. Nashville.

The Flames also announced centre Mikael Backlund and another member of the team's support staff have entered the NHL's COVID-19 protocol Friday, bringing the number of people sidelined in the organization to 32.

A total of 19 players and 13 club employees are currently in isolation for a team that's been hit hard by a coronavirus outbreak.

Habs-Bruins postponed

Saturday's game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre has been postponed, the NHL announced on Friday. 

A makeup date has yet to be determined.

The Canadiens hosted the Philadelphia Flyers at the arena behind closed doors on Thursday night, at the request of Quebec health officials amid rising COVID-19 infections. 

The Canadiens defeated the Flyers 3-2 as Jonathan Drouin served as the only scorer in a shootout.

Montreal Canadiens players and coaching staff look on from the bench against a backdrop of empty seats during during the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers in Montreal on Thursday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

"We have accepted this request to ensure the health and safety of our supporters and communities," the Habs said in a news release late Thursday afternoon.

Currently, vaccine passports are required to attend large sporting events in Quebec, and face coverings are supposed to be worn at all times. There is no capacity limit set. The Bell Centre can seat more than 21,000 fans.

The release says the team has been assured that games will return to partial capacity in January.

On Thursday, the province reported 2,736 new cases — its highest daily total recorded since Jan. 3, when Quebec was plunged in the virus's second wave.

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Boston has added players to the COVID protocol list in each of the past three days but did play on Thursday in New York against the Islanders.

The Bruins are scheduled to return to the ice on Sunday in Ottawa. The Canadiens will resume their schedule on Monday on the road against the New York Islanders.

Jets to reduce capacity at home games

The Winnipeg Jets announced their games at Canada Life Centre will be limited to 50 per cent capacity between Dec. 21 and Jan. 11, 2022 to comply with the latest Manitoba Health public-health order announced Friday.

Sunday's game versus the St. Louis Blues will proceed at full capacity.

Leafs add 4 players to COVID-19 protocol list

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

Later on Friday, the team also added forwards Wayne Simmonds and Jason Spezza.

Forward Alex Steeves and defenceman Carl Dahlstrom were recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.

Toronto was supposed to play in Calgary on Thursday, but that game was cancelled.

WATCH l How COVID-19 is affecting the NHL season:

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For the first time this season, the NHL is postponing several games after temporarily shutting down three teams including the Calgary Flames over COVID-19 concerns. Some players are calling on the league to pause the entire season.

The Leafs say all players and travelling staff were tested Thursday for COVID-19 in Vancouver. The club was informed of the test results Friday morning, and each individual will undergo additional testing.

Toronto is scheduled to play the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday before visiting the expansion Seattle Kraken on Sunday.

The Canucks have five players in COVID-19 protocol after forward Tyler Motte was added to the list on Friday.

NFL moves 3 games

The NFL has moved three games because of COVID-19 outbreaks: Las Vegas at Cleveland from Saturday to Monday; and Seattle at the Los Angeles Rams and Washington at Philadelphia from Sunday to Tuesday.

The Browns could have been without as many as 16 regulars on Saturday, so the game is now scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m. EST Monday. It will be televised by NFL Network.

Washington and Philadelphia will play at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, as will the Seahawks and Rams. Both games will be televised by Fox and available on Sunday Ticket.

"We have made these schedule changes based on medical advice and after discussion with the NFLPA as we are seeing a new, highly transmissible form of the virus this week resulting in a substantial increase in cases across the league," the NFL said in a statement. "We continue to make decisions in consultation with medical experts to ensure the health and safety of the NFL community."

Previously, the NFL did not plan to move any games because of coronavirus outbreaks. It even said forfeits "could be in play." But recent developments with the omicron strain of COVID-19 has changed the league's thinking — as did several outbreaks across the league entering Week 15 of the season.

"We will make every effort, consistent with the underlying health and safety principles, to play our full schedule within the current 18 weeks," Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a memo sent to the 32 clubs and obtained by the AP. "Each team is obligated to have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place. There is no right to postpone a game, and games will not be postponed or rescheduled because of roster issues affecting a particular position group or particular number of players.

"If games are postponed, we will make every effort to minimize the competitive and economic burden on the participating teams."

Nugent-Hopkins added to protocol

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been added to the NHL's COVID-19 protocol, the Edmonton Oilers announced on Friday.

He had an assist in Thursday night's 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The victory snapped the Oilers' six-game losing streak. Nugent-Hopkins, 28, has recorded 25 points (three goals, 22 assists) in 28 games this season.

Nugent-Hopkins joins Devin Shore who was added to the list on Thursday, Ryan McLeod and Oilers head coach Dave Tippett, who were also placed in the league's protocol earlier this week.

U.S. athletes will not require COVID-19 booster to compete in Beijing

American athletes competing at the Beijing Winter Games will not be required to have COVID-19 booster shots, the United States Olympic Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said on Friday.

The USOPC said in September that all U.S. athletes hoping to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics would need to be vaccinated but will not require boosters even as the United States is seeing a surge in cases and the Omicron variant takes hold.

"At this point there is no mandate for a booster vaccine," said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland, during a conference call following the final executive board meeting of 2021.

"We have already encouraged many in our community to get the boosters following the CDC [Centre for Disease Control] guidance where its appropriate and encouraged at this stage. We will absolutely continue to do that," added Hirshland.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Beijing Olympic organizers have not required athletes to be vaccinated for the Feb. 4-20 Games but participants who have not had a COVID-19 shot will be required to serve a 21-day quarantine before competing.

The IOC did not require athletes who competed at this summer's Tokyo Games to be vaccinated although it was encouraged.

OHL bracing for more uncertainty with capacity reduction

The Ontario Hockey League has seen another one of its clubs sidelined by COVID-19.

The OHL announced Friday the Flint Firebirds have suspended all team activities as a result of 11 members of their organization testing positive.

The league says all players and staff affected are "currently asymptomatic or exhibiting mild symptoms."

Flint represents the third major coronavirus outbreak on the junior circuit this season.

The Erie Otters, another U.S.-based club, were also forced to suspend activities earlier this week when 13 players tested positive.

The Sudbury Wolves had six of their games postponed after 12 positive cases were discovered two weeks ago.

Games involving Flint and Erie set for Friday and Saturday have been postponed.

The league also announced Friday it was postponing two games involving the Niagara IceDogs due to COVID-19 protocols.

The OHL has been forced to scratch a total of 18 games so far this season because of COVID-19, including 12 this week.

The league requires all players, staff, officials and billets to be vaccinated.

With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press, Reuters and Field Level Media

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