NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 28, 2021
The NHL returns with CBA exemptions to give teams COVID roster relief, several stars lament the decision to withdraw from the 2022 Olympics, plus injury updates and much more in the morning coffee headlines.
NHL COVID NEWS UPDATES
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman provided highlights of recent CBA exemptions formalized by the NHL and NHLPA to provide COVID relief to their teams.
Teams will be allowed to add a third goaltender when two regulars aren’t available. There will be an emergency salary-cap exemption allowing clubs to make emergency recalls for teams that cannot dress two goalies, six defensemen or 12 forwards. The recalled player’s cap hit cannot exceed $1 million.
The taxi squad has returned until at least the All-Star break in early February consisting of a maximum of six players who cannot be on the squad longer than 20 days. Players cannot be on it if they were part of an NHL roster on Dec. 22, are waiver-exempt, were on the roster at least 75 percent of regular-season days or played in 16 of a team’s last 20 games through Dec. 22. Goalies who dressed but didn’t play are counted as having played.
TSN: Because of seven NHL teams based in Canada, the league cannot do blanket testing of fully vaccinated, asymptomatic players due to the rules and restrictions set up by the Canadian federal and provincial governments. A lack of widespread booster availability in Canada could also affect efforts by the NHL to make an extra dose part of being considered fully vaccinated.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league could review its COVID protocol after the US Centers for Disease Control reduced its recommended 10-day isolation period to five days.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reduction in the isolation period plus the recent CBA changes could reduce the current upheaval affecting the NHL schedule by leading to fewer postponements in the coming weeks. There have also been calls for the league and PA to allow asymptomatic players to continue playing rather than undergo any isolation period but there’s no indication if that’s under serious consideration at the moment.
NHL.COM: Three more games were postponed due to COVID concerns, bringing the full number of postponements to 70. The three games are the Chicago Blackhawks at Winnipeg Jets and the home-and-home series on Wednesday and Friday between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild are trying to avoid any positive COVID tests as their Winter Classic matchup on Jan. 1 with the St. Louis Blues at Target Field draws near.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson described the stress the players are feeling trying to play with COVID lurking in the background. “Over the last two seasons, you kind of get used to it a little bit, but it’s not really about hockey, it’s about mental health,” he said. “It tears you down a little bit thinking about it all the time when you’re supposed to be playing and be good out on the ice.” He added that the players have to try to live with that, while also saying they were fortunate that no one has gotten seriously ill and are vaccinated.
SPORTSNET: Has a daily tracker of the NHL players and head coaches currently in COVID protocol. Among the latest are Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen, Detroit’s Lucas Raymond, Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, Philadelphia’s Ryan Ellis, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, Toronto’s William Nylander and Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer.
MORE REACTION TO NHL WITHDRAWAL FROM 2022 OLYMPICS.
THE SCORE: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid called for a best-on-best tournament if the 2022 Winter Olympics aren’t pushed ahead by COVID in the same way the Tokyo Summer Games were moved from 2020 to 2021. “We can’t go six, seven, eight years without playing best-on-best,” said McDavid. “I’d like to see something worked out if the Olympics don’t get pushed.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL owners don’t like Olympics breaks because they don’t make any money from it. They only agreed to participate to get the players on board with last year’s extension to the collective bargaining agreement. However, they would be amenable to a World Cup of Hockey. That’s an NHL-controlled event staged in September that doesn’t adversely affect the regular season.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were the latest NHL stars to express disappointment over the league’s decision to withdraw from the Olympics. Bergeron indicated he would’ve gone as it would’ve been his last opportunity to experience it after having played in 2010 and 2014.
Marchand has never played in an Olympic competition and this year was likely his best chance of doing so. He criticized the decision, claiming the league doesn’t care about the Olympics because they don’t make any money from it. “It’s a business and we’re an asset. Let’s call a spade a spade,” he said.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said he would’ve gone to the Olympics despite the potential consequences of testing positive for COVID while in Beijing. Under Chinese law, anyone testing positive while in the country must quarantine three to five weeks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players’ frustration is understandable but the league took the necessary action and was within its rights to do so under the CBA. The postponed games brought about by the latest spread of COVID-19 threatened to derail this season. That would’ve significantly affected league revenue, in turn affecting next season’s salary cap, which also would’ve impacted the timetable for the players to repay their hockey-related revenue debt to the owners incurred last year.
IN OTHER NEWS…
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Winger Zach Hyman returns to the Oilers lineup after being sidelined by a shoulder injury since Dec. 11. Meanwhile, goaltender Mike Smith looks ready to return to action for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on Oct. 19.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust took part in full-contact practice yesterday. Rust could return to action later in the week but there’s still no set time for Malkin’s return. Meanwhile, winger Jason Zucker is listed as week-to-week with a nagging lower-body injury.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken forward Bradon Tanev will require season-ending ACL surgery after suffering a knee injury on Dec. 18.
TSN: A lawsuit filed against the Chicago Blackhawks for a former high school student who claimed he was sexually assaulted by former video coach Bradley Alrich has been dismissed. Rick Westhead reports the withdrawal of the suit indicates a settlement has been reached.
THE PROVINCE: Former NHL coach Bob McCammon passed away on Dec. 23 at the age of 80. He served two stints as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers (1978-79, 1981-82 to 1983-84), two stints as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers (1985-86, 1995-96 to 1997-98) and was head coach of the Vancouver Canucks from 1987-88 to 1990-91.
DAILY DEMOCRAT: Former NHL player and coach Jim Wiley died Sunday at age 71. He spent five seasons as a player with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks from 1972-73 to 1976-77, finishing with four goals and 14 points in 63 games. He went on to become a minor league coach from 1984-85 to 2007-08, except for one season as head coach of the San Jose Sharks in 1995-96.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the families and friends of both men.