With the impacts of COVID-19 still running rampant in the world, everyone knew that running an NHL season would be a challenge.
The plan of running the 2021 season in teams’ respective cities and arenas was always going to increase the chance of a player being bit by the virus bug. The NHL has already seen cases of the virus before the start of the new season, but with the increased travel and player contact (as well as no mandatory isolation like the bubble) it was almost a certainty that the league would face positive tests and the repercussions from those tests.
Right now, the league is facing its biggest challenge as multiple teams are sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols. According to reports, the NHL and NHLPA are investigating implementing rapid testing for players and staff on game days.
As mentioned, multiple teams have been impacted by the virus, which has altered the schedule. The Colorado Avalanche are the most recent team to be shut down, joining the Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, and Vegas Golden Knights.
Two weeks after saying that the league would not be implementing any new COVID protocols, the NHL has since changed its stance.
New measures are taking place like remoting glass partitions behind the bench to increase airflow. The league also mandated that players are to be physically distant by six feet between stalls in the locker room. The NHL has also asked players to limit their time at the rink before games.
That last suggestion was challenged heavily by the players. Right now, it’s suggested that the players arrive no earlier than 1h and 45m from game time. However, many players have been vocal about that suggestion.
“This is pretty much the only place we’re allowed to come,” said Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Copp. “We’re pretty much not doing anything, so the one place that we’ve made a safe space is the locker room and the rink,” continued Copp.
Reports are coming in that certain teams are “furious” they were “forced into a dangerous situation.” The Buffalo Sabres played host to the New Jersey Devils, despite showing signs of an outbreak.
Two Devils’ players were placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol before traveling to Buffalo. Later in the week, a handful of other New Jersey players were also added to the league’s COVID protocols.
Since that series, the Buffalo Sabres have seen a number of players affected. Taylor Hall and Rasmus Ristolainen were placed on the COVID protocol list, among others.
Being on the COVID-19 protocol list hasn’t impacted NHL Stanley Cup odds. The Lightning still come in at +700 (888Sport), while the Golden Knights (+700) are still considered a top team in the league.
The list may affect daily NHL regular season odds but has since shown no significant impacts for the outright winner.