NHL postpones Maple Leafs, Canucks games

The Toronto Maple Leafs game at Vancouver on Saturday was postponed due to concerns about COVID-19.

NHL, NHLPA return to tighter COVID-19 safety measures amid new Omicron variant

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby (49) pokes the puck away from Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) as Canucks defenceman Jalen Chatfield (63) keeps close during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
  • Leafs, Canucks next two games postponed.
  • NHL shuts down Bruins, Predators through holiday break.
  • Hockey Canada amends World Juniors pre-tournament schedule.
  • Greater Toronto Hockey League postpones all competitive games until Dec. 23.
  • Red Wings add coach Jeff Blashill, 4 others to COVID-19 protocol list.
  • Devils' P.K. Subban placed in COVID-19 protocol.
  • COVID-19 forces postponement of Manitoba, Laval AHL games.
  • Nets' superstar duo placed in NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The NHL has postponed two games each for the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs as COVID-19 case counts continue to rise throughout the league.

A matchup between the Canucks and Leafs scheduled for Saturday, and Sunday games between the Canucks and Arizona Coyotes and the Leafs and Seattle Kraken have been pushed back indefinitely.

Toronto's T.J. Brodie, Jack Campbell, Travis Dermott, head coach Sheldon Keefe and assistant coach Spencer Carbery have been added to the league's COVID-19 protocol.

Vancouver has six players — Tyler Myers, Tyler Motte, Brad Hunt, Juho Lammikko, Tucker Poolman and Luke Schenn — and assistant coach Jason King in the league's COVID-19 protocol.

"Well, I wasn't totally surprised, was a little bit disappointed," Canucks interim general manager and president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford said on a Zoom conference call. 

"From a team point of view, this was going to be a really good test for us. Every game is a test but the Maple Leafs are one of the top teams in the league and we would've got a good look at how our team responded against them. We're disappointed but safety comes first. Safety of the players, safety of the fans and I think this is the right decision."

Rutherford said the team expects test results to return later Saturday to determine if any more players will enter league protocol.

The NHL said in a statement that the decision to postpone games was made by medical groups with the teams, the league and the NHL Players' Association.

The league said it is in the process of reviewing and revising its regular-season schedule.

Five of the games originally set for Saturday have now been pushed, including Florida at Minnesota, Boston at Montreal, Tampa Bay at Colorado and Columbus at Calgary.

The NHL and NHLPA announced earlier on Saturday enhanced protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the virus amid the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The new measures include daily testing, increased use of masks in team facilities and while travelling, physical distancing and prohibitions on players dining out while on the road.

The league and the players' union will re-evaluate the enhanced protocols by Jan. 7.

The Calgary Flames — who have 19 players and 13 employees in isolation — saw their season paused earlier this week. The Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers followed suit as the virus swept through their teams.

Bruins, Predators shutdown through holiday break

The NHL on Saturday said it would postpone all Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators games at least through Dec. 26.

The league had already shut down the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers through at least that date because of the rising number of players testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

The disruptions to the schedule further cloud the NHL's plans to send the world's top players to the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Olympics.

WATCH | Will NHL players go to Beijing?: 

Canadian Olympic men's hockey power rankings: Will NHLers go?

10 months ago
Duration 5:34
Rob Pizzo addresses the giant elephant in the room: whether or not the NHL/NHLPA will pull the plug on the Olympics.

The NHL agreed to a break in its schedule to allow players to compete in Beijing with the caveat that it could withdraw on its own if an abundance of COVID-19 disruptions forced games to be rescheduled during the Olympic window.

The NHL has until Jan. 10 to withdraw from the Beijing Olympics without financial penalty.

World Juniors pre-tournament schedule updated

Hockey Canada announced Saturday that teams are now to play a reduced pre-tournament schedule ahead of the world junior men's hockey championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta. 

The pre-tournament schedule was originally set for Dec. 19, but games will not commence until Dec. 23, with an opportunity for games to be played on Dec. 24. The updated pre-tournament schedule has yet to be finalized. 

The tournament kicks off Dec. 26 with two games, including Canada opening its tournament against the Czech Republic.

Red Wings coach, 4 others added to COVID protocol list

Detroit placed three players, coach Jeff Blashill and assistant coach Alex Tanguay in protocol ahead of Saturday night's home game against New Jersey.

Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Ben Simon and assistant coach Todd Krygier have been called up to work the bench tonight alongside Red Wings assistant Doug Houda for Detroit's home game against the New Jersey Devils.

The Red Wings have the only player in the league, Tyler Bertuzzi, who is not vaccinated.

Devils' P.K. Subban placed in COVID-19 protocol

New Jersey Devils defenceman P.K. Subban was placed in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol on Saturday.

Subban is the fifth member of the Devils to enter protocol, joining fellow blue-liners Ryan Graves and Christian Jaros and forwards Nico Hischier and Jesper Boqvist.

Subban, 32, was held out of New Jersey's 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday as a precaution.

WATCH l Sports leagues grapple with threat of widening outbreaks: 

How long can sports venues stay full? | The Breakdown

10 months ago
Duration 6:16
As the Omicron variant spreads and COVID case counts rise across sports leagues, infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness says it’s time to stop allowing full-capacity crowds in venues.

A former Norris Trophy recipient as the NHL's top defenseman, Subban has recorded 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 27 games this season.

Subban has 456 points (112 goals, 344 assists) in 784 career games with the Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators and Devils.

Canadiens place Lehkonen on COVID-19 protocol list

Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen has been placed on the COVID protocol list, the team announced on Saturday.

The team also cancelled practice Saturday for precautionary reasons.

Raptors' Siakam, Banton enter NBA's health and safety protocols

Toronto's Pascal Siakam and Dalano Banton have entered the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The announcement came shortly before the Raptors were set to tip off against the visiting Golden State Warriors.

Precious Achiuwa rejoined the roster Saturday after being in COVID-19 protocols, while OG Anunoby was also set to make his return after missing 13 games with a hip injury.

NFL reduces testing for asymptomatic vaccinated players

Only unvaccinated NFL players and those experiencing possible symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested starting Sunday, according to the league's revised protocols.

Also, higher risk players have until 2 p.m. Monday to send written notice if they choose to opt out, according to a memo sent to clubs on Saturday and obtained by The Associated Press. The players will not be paid and the notice is irrevocable.

Until now, vaccinated players had been tested weekly. Unvaccinated players will continue to test daily. The NFL Players Association has advocated for daily testing for all players since before the season but the league and the union agreed to decrease testing instead.

Dr. Allen Sills, the league's chief medical officer, called the modified testing policies "strategic" and "smarter."

COVID-19 surge wreaks havoc with AHL schedule

The Manitoba Moose game Saturday night at Iowa has been rescheduled to Jan. 19 due to league COVID-19 protocols and related travel concerns.

In addition, Manitoba's games next Tuesday and Wednesday at Texas have been postponed. Make-up dates have yet to be determined.

And the Laval Rocket's game at Syracuse scheduled for Saturday evening has been postponed.

Nets stars enter NBA's health and safety protocols

Brooklyn Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have entered into the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocols, multiple media outlets reported on Saturday.

Durant has been putting together an MVP-calibre season, averaging 29.7 points per game and shooting 52.3 per cent from the field for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets.

Durant scored 34 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Thursday's 114-105 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in a game for which the team was without seven players due to the health and safety protocols.

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

How COVID-19 is affecting the NHL season

10 months ago
Duration 2:02
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.

Seven-time All-Star Irving has not suited up for the team yet this season because he refuses to take the COVID-19 vaccine, which is required to enter the Nets' Barclays Center.

On Friday, the team said it would welcome back Irving for games and practices in which he is eligible.

The NBA, NFL and NHL have all seen games postponed due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

The NBA rolled out tighter COVID-19 protocols amid a sudden wave of COVID-19 cases and, according to a memo seen by Reuters on Friday, will increase testing from Dec. 26-Jan.8 and return to mask usage in many situations until agreed otherwise by the league and union representing its players.

GTHL postpones competitive games

Canada's largest minor hockey association has postponed all competitive games until Thursday, effectively suspending play until the new year.

The Greater Toronto Hockey League says the decision is in response to public health concerns amid surging rates of COVID-19.

Starting Sunday until Thursday, the GTHL says all AAA, AA and A games will be postponed.

The GTHL is still scheduled to take its annual mid-season break from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1.

All teams may continue to practise and participate in skill development programs if they choose to.

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

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