COVID-19 wreaks havoc on sports world, Ont. venues limited to 50 per cent capacity


CALGARY – An outbreak that has forced the postponement of four Calgary Flames games worsened Wednesday after seven more players were added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list and the team’s return to game play was delayed through Saturday.

Head coach Darryl Sutter, associate coach Kirk Muller and assistant coach Ryan Huska were also in protocol along with seven support staff members, the NHL team said in a Twitter post.

The Flames said the latest player additions – which brought the team’s overall player total to 16 – included Rasmus Andersson, Byron Froese, Johnny Gaudreau, Erik Gudbranson, Trevor Lewis, Jacob Markstrom and Tyler Pitlick.

Noah Hanifin, Milan Lucic and Sean Monahan were added to the list Tuesday. Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Brad Richardson, Adam Ruzicka, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and a member of the training staff were added Monday.

A home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday was the latest matchup to be postponed due to the outbreak.

The NHL, in a statement released Wednesday, said the team’s training facilities will remained closed until further notice.

It has been a busy week on the COVID-19 front as sports leagues, teams and players grapple with a sharp rise in numbers. Its impact is being felt by sports fans as well.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday that the province is capping capacity at 50 per cent for indoor venues with capacity greater than 1,000 people.

That affects the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors, the Ottawa Senators, and Ontario Hockey League teams, among other teams and events.

A total of 10 NHL games have already been postponed, including five this week. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association met Tuesday night to review COVID-19 protocols.

In addition to Ontario, politicians and health officials from around the country are considering potential changes to indoor gathering rules as the highly transmissible Omicron COVID-19 variant continues to spread.

Two major hockey tournaments are also quickly approaching. Teams travelling to the Dec. 26-Jan. 5 world under-20 men’s hockey championship in Edmonton and Red Deer were due to arrive in Alberta on Wednesday.

Players and team personnel will quarantine for two days upon arrival and must produce two negative tests to get on the ice Saturday. Pre-tournament games start Sunday.

The Feb. 4-20 Winter Olympics in Beijing have also been a talking point across the NHL in recent days.

The International Olympic Committee has said an athlete that tests positive for COVID-19 in China will need to produce two negative results 24 hours apart. If they’re unable to do so, the quarantine period could last from 21 days up to five weeks.

Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid has called the idea of a potential five-week quarantine at the Games “unsettling.”

Oilers coach Dave Tippett was placed in COVID-19 protocol Tuesday night.

Golden Knights defenceman Alex Pietrangelo – named with McDavid and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby as provisional members of the Canadian squad – has said he’s not sure if he’ll be going to China.

And after learning of the current requirements should he be selected by Canada, Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said the situation made him “uneasy.”

Vegas goalie Robin Lehner of Sweden last week became the first player to announce publicly he wouldn’t be going to the Games because of the quarantine rules.

The league committed to Beijing as part of the extension to the collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA but can pull out of the Games at any point. The NHL has until Jan. 10 to nix the plan without financial penalty if COVID-19 causes enough of a disruption to its season.

Also Wednesday, the Nashville Predators announced six players and six members of the team’s travelling party – including head coach John Hynes – were added to COVID-19 protocol.

The players included defenceman Ben Harpur and forwards Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, Matt Luff, Michael McCarron and Philip Tomasino.

Goaltending coach Ben Vanderklok and assistant coaches Dan Lambert and Todd Richards were also added to the list.

Earlier in the day, Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron was added to the list. He’s one of over 140 players who have been on the league’s protocol list this season.

In the NFL, Cleveland BrIn the Ontario Hockey League, the Erie Otters suspended team activities after 13 players tested positive for COVID-19. Affected players were currently asymptomatic or exhibiting mild symptoms, the league said in a release.

Two Erie games – Friday’s matchup in Guelph and Saturday’s home game against Kitchener – were postponed.

The Rangers’ game against Owen Sound on Wednesday was also postponed, the OHL said.

The league said the postponement was due to COVID-19 protocols affecting the Attack. The OHL did not indicate in its release if any players tested positive, only saying the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, the OHL sent another release announcing that Thursday’s game between Sudbury and Barrie was postponed due to protocols affecting the Wolves.

In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, a player from the Quebec Remparts was placed in isolation following a positive COVID-19 test result. The league said all other players and staff on the team were tested and results came back negative.