The past two weeks in the sports world have been marred by the coronavirus, and the upcoming week looks like it’ll be no different.
Sports leagues across the country are continuing to deal with the spread of the omicron variant within locker rooms, causing postponements and cancellations.
The NHL on Christmas Eve announced it would push back its leaguewide return-to-play date from Monday to Tuesday due to the pandemic.
The NHL and its players’ association agreed last week to pause the season on Wednesday due to several teams dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. But instead of getting back on the ice as soon as the weekend was over, as originally planned, the league is postponing the 14 games that were scheduled for Monday, including the Washington Capitals’ contest versus Ottawa at Capital One Arena. The new postponements bring the league’s total to 64 games.
Several NHL teams have dealt with outbreaks in recent weeks, with teams like the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs having more than a dozen players test positive for the virus. The Capitals don’t have an outbreak, but they have placed multiple players in COVID-19 protocols in the past week, including Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie.
In college football, the bowl season is also being impacted by the virus.
Both the Military and Fenway bowls were canceled Sunday for the second straight year due to the pandemic. The Military Bowl, scheduled for Monday in Annapolis, won’t take place because Boston College, which was set to face off against East Carolina, had more than 40 players unavailable because of the virus. The Wasabi Fenway Bowl, set for Wednesday in Boston between Virginia and SMU, was canceled because several Cavaliers players tested positive for COVID-19.
“This is a terrible situation obviously,” said Steve Beck, the Military Bowls’ president and executive director, in a press release. “We appreciate everyone who worked so hard to try to make the game happen. Of course, the health and safety of the players and coaches is top priority. The decision not to play is understandable, but disappointing.”
Boston College, which had been practicing in Washington, D.C. since Wednesday, reported before the season that its entire roster and coaching staff were vaccinated, while Virginia had close to a 100% vaccination rate.
“This is not the way we wanted to see this season come to an end,” said Boston College coach Jeff Hafley in a statement. “We just do not have enough players to safely play a game.”
The Military and Fenway bowls weren’t the first two to be shut down. On Thursday, the EastPost Hawaii Bowl, originally scheduled for Friday, was canceled after Hawaii announced it would not play the game against Memphis. The team cited COVID-19 issues in the program as well as transfers and injuries as reasons.
In a post that was later deleted, Nick Carparelli, the executive director of Bowl Season, which oversees the operation of more than 40 bowls, tweeted Sunday that college football’s COVID-19 protocols are “outdated and need to be adjusted immediately,” adding that they cause “more problems than there need to be.”
The NFL avoided postponements this past weekend after pushing back three games in Week 15. Due to outbreaks among the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams and Washington Football Team organizations, the league pushed each of their games back two days apiece, although the Browns and Burgundy and Gold still played without several starters or their top two quarterbacks. Both teams lost, and their playoff chances were severely diminished.
That doesn’t mean the NFL was without its COVID-19 issues.
Entering Sunday’s games, 241 players in the NFL — 7.5 per team — were on the COVID-19 list, most of those due to positive tests. The New York Jets, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens were the teams with the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the league, with 19, 17 and 16 players on the list, respectively.
The league has made it easier for vaccinated, asymptomatic players to test out of protocols, and NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said Friday that he’s “pleased” with the way the new system has worked.
While the NBA has avoided a league-wide shutdown like the NHL, the association did have to postpone nine games between Dec. 14 and Dec. 23, including the Wizards’ game against the Nets last Tuesday.
Despite having more than 100 players in COVID-19 protocols, the NBA was able to put on its five Christmas games, including Milwaukee’s game against Boston that saw the Bucks come back from down 19 to earn the victory. Fresh off the COVID-19 list, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trailblazers and Chicago Bulls each had multiple players who entered the league’s protocol over the weekend. The Hawks now have 10 players in health and safety protocols, including star Trae Young, while Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball was added to the COVID-19 list on Sunday.
Leagues are still searching to find the right balance in their COVID-19 safety protocols. The NBA and its players’ association are reportedly close to an agreement that would allow some asymptomatic players to clear protocols sooner, while the NHL, which had 15% of its players on the COVID-19 list when it announced the pause, has brought back daily testing and masks inside team facilities for all players.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.