- The National Hockey League (NHL) has postponed Thursday’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings due to COVID issues.
- The game will now be played on Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
- It is the 99th NHL game to be postponed this season.
The National Hockey League (NHL) has dealt with more than its share of COVID related issues this season. In mid-December, the NHL postponed cross-border games until after the Christmas holidays due to the problematic issues of moving back and forth between the United States and Canada. Two days later, the league announced that would temporarily pause the season by starting their scheduled holiday break early. The disruption of the regular season caused by the COVID pandemic also necessitated the league’s decision to not allow NHL players to play in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
The most recent postponement was announced earlier today–Thursday’s game between the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center has been postponed because of COVID issues. The Ducks placed center Sam Carrick, goaltender John Gibson, defenseman Hampus Lindholm and right wing Vinni Lettieri into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols this afternoon. They join left wing Nicolas Deslauriers and centers Ryan Getzlaf and Derek Grant who were placed in the protocol earlier this week. Trevor Zegras was previously in COVID protocols but exited on Thursday. Detroit currently has no players in COVID protocol. The league also announced that the game will be rescheduled for Sunday, January 9. Toronto-Montreal and Ottawa-Seattle were postponed earlier with no makeup dates announced.
Ducks’ head coach Dallas Eakins said that rookie center Zegras made a case that he could play tonight before the cancellation was announced. He was overruled–he had only been able to practice about 15 minutes since his positive test on December 28 and the coach did not want to risk an injury due to inactivity:
“I don’t usually share in-my-office conversations, but I just had one about 20 minutes ago and my man ‘Z’ (Zegras) is not very happy with me right now. He is dying to play. His first time on the ice was this morning and I don’t even know if it was a 15-minute skate.”
“We’ve got to think of our team first. I have no doubt ‘Z’ could come in and play. The thing that worries me is that we’ve been without him for over a week and I think the percentages of him getting hurt with a groin, a back, a hip flexor, are super high right now coming into a game like this.”
“We don’t want to lose him for an extended period of time.”
Every player on the Ducks’ roster has been vaccinated and a number have received boosters. Coach Eakins says that the team has done everything they can:
“We’ve done everything we can. Our guys have jumped in with two feet. (But) it’s almost turning into straight luck a little bit. We’ve got guys wearing masks. We’ve got guys staying away from each other. The league is doing a great job with putting out the protocols. It just seems like you can’t duck it now.”
Thursday’s game was the first cancellation for the Ducks due to COVID issues this season. The team had four games postponed last month–three due to travel issues to and from Canada and one due to the extended holiday break. The Orange County Register reports that the Ducks have been fortunate relative to COVID-19–until now:
In fact, the Ducks had largely avoided any coronavirus-related issues for their roster, dating to last season. Right wing Jakob Silfverberg was the first of their players, coaches or staff to enter the league’s protocols when he tested positive. He sat out for six games between Oct. 31 and Nov. 14.
Center Sam Steel, left wing Max Comtois, Zegras and Getzlaf were the next to test positive and enter the protocols followed by Deslauriers and Grant. Steel and Comtois exited the protocols and returned to the lineup on Dec. 31 and this past Sunday, respectively, but the other four were still out.
The addition of four players to the protocols brought the Ducks’ season to an abrupt but all-too-predictable halt. After all, they had to scramble to fill slots in their lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The presence of three players on injured reserve has compounded matters.
The Ducks/Wings postponement was the 99th game that the league has been forced to postpone this season. Only five of the postponed games have announced reschedule dates. At present, the Montreal Canadiens have the most significant COVID issues with 22 players and two coaches in protocol. The Habs suspended team activities following a 5-2 loss to Florida on Sunday. Earlier today, they extended their hiatus and announced a tentative return date of Sunday for both the NHL team and their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket.
Also on Thursday, the Winnipeg Jets placed forward Jansen Harkins, defenseman Dylan DeMelo, goalie Arvid Holm and video coach Matt Prefontaine into COVID-19 protocols. Despite the COVID issues, the Jets were able to play on Thursday night in Denver but were ripped by the Colorado Avalanche in a 7-1 loss.