NHL may have to add a week to the regular-season schedule to accommodate a growing list of postponed gamesGETTY IMAGES
A prominent infectious diseases specialist believes that the assumption the Omicron variant will ease enough to allow Canadian NHL clubs "to play before increased capacity home crowds is a pipe dream," according to Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver PROVINCE. Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre President & Medical Dir Dr. Brian Conway said, "That's unrealistic. ... Even if you wanted to fill Rogers Arena, you wouldn't have the staff. And it's probably going to be the situation at the minimum until the end of February and probably longer -- and that's pretty optimistic." The NHL "may have to add a week to the regular-season schedule to accommodate a growing list of postponed games, but still hopes to complete the playoffs by late June." More than 100 NHL games "have been postponed and rescheduled." Conway said, "In the U.S., they've made a decision they're going to accept the consequences of significant transmission and having six, seven or eight players on protocol and bring in a taxi squad" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/10).
NOT ENOUGH TIME? In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch writes, "Somewhere the schedule-maker must be wondering if the NHL will be able to play a full 82-game season?" If the current trend continues, "you'd have to think the NHL all-star weekend in Vegas in early February may have to be cancelled, as well." A league exec yesterday said, "They can still get 82 games but I think it's getting close." The Senators have played "just 29 games since they opened the season Oct. 14." Today's game in Edmonton was "supposed to be Game No. 41 of the season." If all goes as planned, Game 41 -- the mid-point of the schedule -- "will happen sometime in early February" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/10).
CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC: In Toronto, Chris Johnston cites sources as saying that All-Star weekend is "still considered all systems go." Johnston: "I'd be very surprised to see the event cancelled at this late hour." It remains a "big event for league sponsors" and new TV partner ESPN "plans to make a splash in Las Vegas." The biggest question is "how enthusiastically top players will embrace the opportunity to go." The NHL also is proceeding as if the Heritage Classic, scheduled for March 13 in Hamilton, Ont., is going ahead, but there is "still some question about whether it will actually happen." There "hasn't yet been any firm indication from the province about whether restrictions will be placed on an outdoor crowd at Tim Hortons Field, and it's unlikely the NHL will choose to play if a reduced capacity is required" (TORONTO STAR, 1/10).