The NHL plans to pause its season on Wednesday, two days before its planned Christmas break, sources told ESPN on Monday evening.
All NHL team facilities will be closed between Dec. 22 and 25 as the league tries to weather several COVID-19 outbreaks. Players are set to report back to team facilities on Dec. 26 and resume daily testing. The NHL schedule is set to resume on Dec. 27.
There are just three games remaining on the NHL slate before the pause: Monday’s game between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild, Tuesday’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+), and Tuesday’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights.
It has been a challenging week for the NHL, as 11 teams have suspended operations and the league postponed all games through Christmas involving cross-border travel between Canada and the U.S. More than 15% of the league’s players are in virus protocols as of Monday night.
In total, 44 games have been postponed. The NHL views that as material damage to the schedule, which is sufficient cause for the league to exercise its opt-out clause for players participating in the Beijing Olympics, sources told ESPN. The NHL is expected to make an Olympic announcement as soon as this week.
The NHL reintroduced stricter protocols this week for players, including daily testing (instead of once every three days), social distancing measures and restrictions on where players can go when they are not at home, the hotel or the rink.
There is only one player who is not vaccinated in the NHL: Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi. The NHL and NHLPA have recommended the vaccine booster to players, but do not have plans to mandate it this season.