NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 23, 2021

by | Dec 23, 2021 | News, NHL | 16 comments

The fallout from the NHL’s withdrawal from the 2020 Winter Olympics, questions over the league’s plans to address the current COVID outbreak among its teams, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NOTE: The NHL expanded its annual holiday break to begin on Dec. 22 and ending on Dec. 26.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr believes it’s a “real shame” NHL players will miss out on another Winter Olympics. However, he acknowledged the inevitability of Wednesday’s decision to withdraw from the Games due to the COVID-19 outbreaks around the NHL and the “profound disruption” to the league’s schedule.

While the decision was out of the players’ control, Fehr said they were devastated and frustrated by the news. He declined to say whether current or former players would still attempt to participate in the Olympics. There’s also no indication whether the Bejing Games would be postponed to 2023.

NBC SPORTS: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane are among the notable NHLers to lament the league’s decision to withdraw from the Games.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports the decision caused some internal strife with the NHLPA ranks. A player agent told Murphy the players he spoke to were “ticked off”. Murphy also cited Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck telling the Winnipeg media he believed the league’s COVID protocols were “a little overkill”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those players who are “ticked off” are likely in a minority. This wasn’t the NHL yanking the rug from beneath their Olympic aspirations for spite or a change of heart. The recent COVID wave and its effect upon the league’s schedule is the culprit.

This decision was based on the effect this wave could have on hockey-related revenue. Two weeks ago, league commissioner Gary Bettman projected revenue for 2021-22 could reach $5 billion, an increase over the initial projection of $4.8 billion earlier in the fall.

Rising COVID numbers around the league, however, threaten those projections. With 48 postponed games to be made up (and possibly more if the outbreaks are sufficiently contained), the league also risked being unable to complete a full 82-game schedule on time. Going to the Olympics would eat up three valuable weeks in February that can be put toward staging those postponed games.

Shortening the schedule isn’t an option here, especially for the players. They still have to repay the owners for the overage of their share of the HRR they collected last season. That’s because the salary cap was set artificially high to ensure teams could maintain their rosters. However, it didn’t reflect actual revenue.

Under Bettman’s recent projection, the players would pay that share back in two years’ time. Shortening the season to accommodate Olympic participation would see those HRR projections fall short, meaning it would take another year for the players to pay that money back. That also means continued marginal increases in the salary cap until such time as that debt to the owners has been repaid.

The players may be disappointed in not getting a shot at Olympic gold in February but they care more about their paychecks.

The NHL’s withdrawal from the Olympics also meant a change of management and coaching for Canada and the United States. St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has stepped down as GM of Team Canada while Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin did the same for Team USA.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Armstrong hands the reins over to Hockey Canada to find suitable staff to ice a Canadian team of amateurs and former NHL players at the Beijing Games. USA Hockey will also be finding replacements for Guerin and his staff.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the NHL and NHLPA have discussed the potential reimplementation of the taxi squad and adoption of salary-cap exemptions for COVID-related roster issues for the remainder of this season.

Brooks believes ESPN is the reason why the 2022 All-Star Game remains a go in February. He also thinks the league and the PA will have to consider whether there will come a time to allow asymptomatic players who have tested positive to continue playing.

TSN: The NHL could consider rescheduling some of the Montreal Canadiens home games in January to later in the season if they cannot play in front of fans in their home arena.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The province of Quebec has banned fans from indoor sporting events until the end of January. The Canadiens would lose considerable revenue without fans at those games, in turn affecting the league’s hockey-related revenue for this season.

SPORTSNET: has a daily updated COVID tracker of all NHL teams. Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane were the latest notable players to enter COVID protocol.

TSN: Salim Valji wonders if there’s a glimmer of hope of keeping the Calgary Flames arena deal alive. According to Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek, the club’s ownership walked away from its partnership with the city of Calgary over a projected $9.7 million increase in the projected cost of the $600 million project. However, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation CEO John Bean claimed there were $19 million in additional infrastructure costs that he said were introduced after their July 2021 agreement, with the city seeking an additional $10 million in funding from CSEC.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Valji indicated Mayor Gondek said the city wasn’t closing the door on the deal. “We’re simply waiting for them to come back and say they found the money,” she said. By the sound of things, CSEC isn’t going to come up with it.

Still, this could be simply public posturing by Flames ownership to put the squeeze on the city. Perhaps league commissioner Bettman will get involved to sort things out if this drags on.


  1. The leadership bouncing kinda feels a little hinky.

  2. T CSEC should pull their heads out of somewhere and suck it up. They spend that much money on bad signings no problem, yet for a new arena you can’t pony that up. Get real.

    • I think they might be annoyed by the bait-and-switch, as I would be.

      “this includes everything? and we’re in agreement?”
      “ok, good – now that we have that squared away, you owe us another $9m”

    • Statements like this piss me off: “…public posturing by Flames ownership to put the squeeze on the city”
      It’s funny how billionaires what us commoners to foot the bill while they and only they reap the profits. I salute that idea with a big old double middle finger to billionaires and those who empower them by selling the idea of socializing the costs of their arenas by asking us tax payers to pay for their arenas and privatizing the profits, ie keeping all the profits from the use of the arena for themselves. Tax dollars have better uses than awarding some to billionaires so they can continue to increase their own wealth which does not trickle down to any of us. If it ever does, I might change my tune but until then, we should say no to this kind of BS.

      • Ron economic spinoffs from a major sports franchise like Calgary add up to billions for the city. It’s an integral part of any larger cities infrastructure. This while we’ll he’s a billionaire so he should just build the arena on his own and to bad is just ludicrous. Everyone who benefits from the arena and team being there should be responsible for its costs. The face that council just continues to add to those costs out of thin air should be a concern regardless of the amount of money the owner has. I’m surprised he even keeps the team at the old arena. At the end of the day if he only cared about the bottom line as you suggest I’m sure there are better places then Calgary for a major sports franchise.

      • Right on Ron,

        The billionaire owners get the benefit out of the team they own,the investment they make and the facility they use.

        The Molson family built the arena , paid for renovations without any public funding.

        The city benefits from ancillary revenue and taxes, but the private ownership benefits just like any other private business.

        The Molson’s are considered to be great owners, great corporate citizens and make a ton of money nobody begrudges.

        The business plan shouldn’t depend on handouts, they need to take a page out of the Molson handbook.

      • Your argument is the same as the one some people used to defeat public funding of Nationwide Arena in Columbus. But thanks to the arena being built, an entire neighborhood was rebuilt – including a ballpark for the AAA Clippers and a new stadium for the MSL Crew. Thanks to jobs created and property taxes collected, the city of Columbus has collected over $1 billion in taxes from that neighborhood alone since Nationwide Arena was completed in early 2000

  3. Not sure how anyone can say the players speaking out are in the minority.

    Unless you polled every potential Olympic hopefully and they came out and spoke publicly.

    Also disagree with the pay check comment;

    Most if not all NHL players going to the Olympics are on the higher end of the pay scale and might not have an issue giving up part of their season to become Olympic champions.

    This isn’t to say I disagree with them pulling out; however, I do believe there is alot of disappointment within the nhl players.

    • Caper: I was referring to those who are supposedly “ticked off” about not going to the Olympics, not those who are obviously disappointed. 151 NHLers took part in the 2014 Sochi Olympics so it’s safe to assume roughly the same number would’ve headed to Beijing. I doubt very much those who weren’t going to be selected are upset by the league’s decision, other than perhaps because of the cancelation of their two-week midwinter break plans.

      Those on the high-end of the NHL payscale might not have an issue giving up part of the season to become Olympic champions, especially those signed beyond this season. Over the long-term, however, they would regret that decision if it takes longer for the players to repay the debt to the owners. You can quibble over what’s the difference between two years or three but those who would be seeking new contracts in three years time will feel the pinch when the cap remains stagnant because of the hit to HRR this season if they went through with the Olympics and wound up with a shortened schedule for the remainder of the season. Remember, the NHL remains largely gate-driven, with the average team earning between $2 million and $3 million per game from the gate. You shorten the season, that’s money you don’t get back and the ripple effect will be felt down the road.

  4. No symptoms, let them play. Follow the NFL policy.

  5. This from wikepedia, which is how I understand it:

    “In medicine, any disease is classified asymptomatic if a patient tests as carrier for a disease or infection but experiences no symptoms.”

    Larry Brooks, as above:

    “thinks the league and the PA will have to consider whether there will come a time to allow asymptomatic players who have tested positive to continue playing. ”

    So Brooks is saying that players with covid should be allowed to play and infect other players, if these players are diseased but asymptomatic.

    Has Brooks been misunderstood, or is he an immense idiot?

    • No, he’s not an idiot. This virus is endemic. It’s not going away. You can run and hide but it will do you no good. Get vaccinated. It’s your only real defense. It won’t prevent infection but it will likely prevent hospitalization and death in the majority of healthy people. Science isn’t something only to be followed when it’s politically convenient.

      • Except for your first sentence, Radino, (and your misuse of the word endemic) I couldn’t agree more.

        Your answer, and Brooks’ position, have nothing to do with being vaccinated. He is saying let infected players play and, essentially, let the chips fall where they may. Amongst the many problems with that is that those who become infected because of this “let them play anyway” policy don’t have a say and don’t know what the consequences will be for them.

        Nor does it address swamping the medical system.

      • Covid is here to stay. It’s not going away. The virus is endemic. If you randomly test a bunch of people they will have covid, symptoms or no. Vaccines don’t prevent the spread 100%. It’s something we’ll have to learn to live with. That’s my understanding of endemic. Wrong or no.

        NHL players should be given the option to opt out of the rest of the season. Same as the NFL. If they are worried about their future health then don’t play. IMO

    • No. Asymptomatic testing shouldn’t happen. But if symptomatic and tested as positive the players would follow protocol.