By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
Since last Monday, the NHL has been dealing with a massive wave of COVID cases and the effects it has on both rosters and schedules.
As of Monday night, 118 players were actively in COVID protocol. Five NHL head coaches were also in COVID protocol, as well as numerous staff members for various organizations. There are also a number of on-ice officials that have been placed in COVID protocol over the last several days.
The Flyers have three of those cases among players. Morgan Frost entered protocol last Tuesday, Max Willman entered on Saturday, and Kevin Hayes joined the protocol list on Monday. The team also has a couple of staff members in protocol, according to Chuck Fletcher.
The decision has been made to suspend the NHL season and advance the holiday break by two days. A game on Monday night between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild took place, and the Tuesday games – Flyers vs. Capitals and Vegas vs. Tampa Bay – will also take place pending test results.
Starting on Wednesday, Dec. 22, the league will officially close all facilities and suspend all operations until Sunday, Dec. 26. Starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday, teams can resume activities following testing. Typically, the annual holiday break takes place from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26, but in light of the COVID surge, it was moved up by two days and will end one day earlier.
The NHL had been handling any potential shutdowns and postponements on a club-by-club basis. By Monday evening, nine teams – more than a quarter of the teams in the NHL – had paused activity and closed facilities due to outbreaks. There had also been multiple postponements over the last few days, ranging from a change in cross-border travel (which postponed 12 games) to the direct outbreaks within certain organizations. In total, 44 NHL games have been postponed this season, 39 of them coming in just the last week up to Monday night.
Originally, there were 34 games scheduled from Monday through Thursday of this week leading into the Christmas break. The most recent round of postponements on Monday left only seven games on the schedule between Tuesday and Thursday.
As a result of this decision, the Flyers game on Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins will be postponed. This is the second Flyers game to be postponed this season, along with a home matchup against the New York Islanders that was originally scheduled for Nov. 30.
The Flyers will be next scheduled to play on Wednesday, Dec. 29, when they begin a four-game road trip against the Seattle Kraken.