When it was announced that the NHL would not be playing the upcoming 2020-21 season without a bubble, many wondered if and when COVID-19 would affect the flow of the season.
Well, those who wondered got their answer when the NHL announced on Friday that six players and two staff members in the Dallas Stars organization tested positive for COVID-19.
It all started when it was announced that the Stars’ afternoon practice was cancelled. Immediately, people began assuming it was COVID-19-related, and it turns out that they were right.
The players and staff who tested positive are now self-isolating as per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NHL guidelines.
“As a result of the positive tests, and as an appropriate precaution, the team’s training facilities have been closed, effective immediately, and will remain closed for several days while further daily testing and contact tracing is conducted,” the NHL said in its statement.
The Dallas Stars were expected to make their 2020-21 season debut on Jan. 14 against the Florida Panthers; however, they will now wait to start the season until Jan. 19 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The three games that the Stars would’ve played before the Lighting matchup have been postponed, but there’s no word yet as to when that will be.
The Dallas Stars were not the only NHL to make a COVID-19 announcement in the last day or so.
The Columbus Blue Jackets also announced on Friday that 19 of its 40 players in attendance at training camp would be missing practice, with the reason for some of them being out of “caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols.”
There hasn’t been any confirmation as to an exact number when it comes to how many sat out for COVID-19 reasons.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that their Saturday practice and scrimmage would be cancelled due to potential COVID-19 exposure.
There is no word on how many individuals were exposed or what their role in the organization is or whether anyone has tested positive yet.
Another big question about this upcoming season was whether or not fans would be allowed in attendance, especially as it varies on a team-by-team basis.
On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that fans would not be allowed in attendance despite initially approving a 25 percent arena capacity (around 3,800) not too long ago.
The decision was made due to an increase in COVID-19 cases across West Central Florida.
However, this decision is not permanent.
The Lightning organization added that they would reassess the situation on Feb. 5 and if local health and government officials deem that it is safe enough, fans can come back to watch games in-person.
The NBA’s Toronto Raptors, who have been using the Lightning’s AMALIE Arena this season due to not being allowed to play games in Canada this season, will also not be allowed to have fans in attendance until further notice.