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As urgency over COVID-19 grows, pausing schedule might be final resort

• The most recent on NHL gamers collaborating within the Olympics
• Are the Coyotes gauging the market on Jakob Chychrun?
• A dialog with Elvis

The names got here pouring out as if shot from an uncontrolled firehose: Craig Smith. Brad Marchand. Sebastian Aho. Seth Jarvis. Elias Lindholm. Andrew Mangiapane. Brad Richardson. Adam Ruzicka. Chris Tanev. Nikita Zadorov. Noah Hanifin. Milan Lucic. Sean Monahan. Jordan Staal. Andrei Svechnikov. Ian Cole. Steven Lorentz. Ryan McLeod. Luke Schenn. Juho Lammikko. Dave Tippett. Brad Hunt. No matter Nashville is coping with amongst gamers and coaches.

Then, Morgan Frost and Tucker Poolman have been pulled in-game.

All of them entered into COVID protocol. Undeniably, extra to come back. The NFL reported 62 constructive checks. Lower than 24 hours after beating the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night time Soccer, the Los Angeles Rams introduced six positives. The NBA postponed two Chicago Bulls video games and a Los Angeles Lakers apply (after one constructive take a look at). NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo entered protocol, as did seven Brooklyn Nets. Even Manchester United had its Tuesday match known as off.

And, we’re all asking: “WTF?”

Similar to sports activities introduced COVID into the mainstream in March 2020, we’re right here once more with the Omicron variant. In accordance with a number of sources, it’s current among the many NHL’s constructive checks. The excellent news is present information signifies vaccination is efficient towards the worst signs/circumstances, and everybody (however one participant) is there.

If there’s a priority proper now about unfold, just by variety of circumstances, it’s in Calgary. However we might not have a real image till someday Wednesday.

The NHL and NHLPA held a name Tuesday evening, as urgency grew over two intertwined points: Ought to extra video games be postponed and the way a lot does this jeopardize participant participation within the Olympics?

Pausing the schedule might be an absolute final resort. All the things else might be tried earlier than going there. Extra doubtless: A return to a lot harder protocols, paying homage to final 12 months’s extremely difficult 2020 season — mask-wearing always, staying at residence/in your resort away from the rink. No eating places, film theatres, staff events, you identify it. Groups transferring from testing each three days to testing each day.

Winter is worse for COVID-19 and the numbers are skyrocketing within the incorrect path.

A few of the U.S.-based groups suppose a giant a part of the issue is slower take a look at ends in Canada. (The late Poolman pull is an indicator of that, however to be honest, Frost’s sport was in Philadelphia.) There are extra choices for privately-owned testing south of the border, they usually really feel prolonged wait occasions for outcomes result in higher dangers of outbreaks when enjoying in Canada. They’re pointing at this week’s Boston/Calgary/Carolina/Vancouver crossover as proof.

I’m unsure that’s simply fixable, however, it’s undoubtedly a speaking level — a defect within the system.

I can undoubtedly see groups throughout the border from residence base being extraordinarily involved. Calgary didn’t fly to Chicago as scheduled as a result of the Flames have been frightened gamers can be stranded within the States. Aho, Jarvis and a member of the Hurricanes’ coaching workers are at present trapped in Canada, though the Hurricanes are looking for ambulance/non-public constitution choices. Hopefully, that occurs. It might be completely brutal if the staffer misses what can be their little one’s first Christmas.

If you happen to advised me anybody on Columbus wasn’t loopy about dealing with Vancouver, may you actually blame them?

In some unspecified time in the future, if groups are going to be pressured to play by way of COVID-crushed rosters, there should be cap reduction so as to add further our bodies. Nobody ought to be pressured to play shorthanded by way of this. Virtually everyone seems to be vaccinated. They’ve performed what was requested of them, and there’s no excuse to make anybody extra weak to sickness, exhaustion or damage as a result of Omicron is extra transmissible.

No extra discuss, “Nicely, everybody ought to have managed the cap higher.” It’s sufficient. Make it like bonus overages for subsequent season. No matter. It’s sufficient already. It impacts the product, too.

As talked about, the excellent news is that the vaccines are stopping severe signs within the majority of circumstances. There are gamers/workers who really feel that, since they’re doing what they’re presupposed to do, solely symptomatic gamers ought to be examined and/or prevented from enjoying. Nevertheless, I’ve examined that concept and been advised there’s no need to danger a worst-case state of affairs if a COVID-positive participant is knowingly allowed to play.

It’s nearly unimaginable to attract any conclusions, as a result of the world as we perceive it may change in minutes. The variables change quickly. As soon as once more, we’re in that aggravating place the place COVID’s unfold is uncontrollable.

Editor’s Notice: The COVID-19 scenario, within the NHL and all over the world, is continually evolving. Readers in Canada can seek the advice of the nation’s public health website for the most recent.


1. “I feel the COVID explosion comes on the excellent time to again out of the Olympics,” one agent mentioned Tuesday. There are spaceships stuffed with non-players who suppose this fashion, however how do the gamers themselves really feel? The NHLPA held two convention calls on Monday and one other is scheduled for Wednesday. In accordance with a number of sources, potential Olympians have been advised the chance is that this: as soon as they get on the flight to Beijing, they lose management of their private future ought to they obtain a constructive COVID take a look at.

In accordance with the Athletes’ Playbook, launched this week, “When you’ve got a confirmed constructive take a look at: You’ll not be allowed to compete/proceed your position. If you’re symptomatic, you may be requested to remain on the designated hospital for therapy. If you’re asymptomatic, you may be requested to remain in an isolation facility.” At a hospital, you may be discharged when: “Your physique temperature returns to regular for 3 consecutive days; respiratory signs enhance considerably; lung imaging exhibits important enchancment; you may have two consecutive adverse PCR take a look at outcomes with a pattern interval of a minimum of 24 hours; and also you show no different COVID-19 signs.” At an isolation facility: “You may be examined each day, starting 24 hours after your final take a look at. You may be discharged after getting two consecutive adverse PCR take a look at outcomes with a minimum of 24 hours between the 2 samples and no different COVID-19 signs.”

Nowhere does it particularly define a three-to-five week quarantine. Nevertheless, the gamers are being warned that’s the worst-case state of affairs underneath Chinese language legislation. And, it doesn’t matter what the rules say, that authorities makes the principles and may modify them at any time.

2. As issues stand this Tuesday night, it’s going to be every particular person participant’s selection about whether or not or to not go to China. That might change, but it surely’s the place we’re proper now.

To nobody’s shock, response is in every single place, however two very distinguished Canadians made their nervousness fairly clear. Connor McDavid referred to a probably prolonged quarantine as “unsettling,” however declined to say if that meant he wouldn’t be going. “I’ve acquired 4 children underneath the age of three-and-a-half,” added Vegas captain Alex Pietrangelo, already named to the Canadian staff. “For me to be probably locked up there for 5 weeks plus the Olympics, that is a very long time being away from my household.”

Pietrangelo mentioned he anticipated to make his personal choice “ahead of later.” (Group Canada is predicted to be named round Jan. 12.) Sweden’s Robin Lehner already introduced he received’t attend. Ryan McDonagh, a Group USA hopeful, mentioned Tuesday morning “there’s little question in my thoughts” gamers wish to go, however so many questions are unanswered.

I don’t communicate to each participant — not even shut — however I do suppose proper now that’s the majority opinion. If the deadline to decide was tomorrow, it might be much more pessimistic, however there’s nonetheless time, because the NHL/NHLPA have till Jan. 10 to say no with out monetary penalty.

3. What’s the monetary penalty? Nobody would give an actual quantity, but it surely contains the prices of the non-public planes that might be despatched to deliver the Olympians from North America to China.

4. One query I requested: what if, for argument’s sake, the People and Russians voted to go, whereas an excellent chunk of the Canadians and Swedes didn’t? Would we get NHLers from these first nations versus a blended or non-NHL group from the latter two? Reply: Sure, that might occur.

5. On the Board of Governors, Commissioner Gary Bettman fortunately advised everybody, “I plan on being right here for a very long time.” Seems like a five-year settlement is being formalized, but when there are any curveballs concerned with that — I’m not conscious of them.

6. Arizona GM Invoice Armstrong refused to remark when requested, but it surely now sounds just like the Coyotes are gauging the market on Jakob Chychrun. I’ve heard the ask is huge, however that doesn’t imply opponents are operating away. He’s signed for 3 extra years at a really affordable $4.6 million AAV and is a terrific participant. That is one to observe.

7. Apart from that, most groups are saying commerce talks are “quiet.” Writing that by no means seems poorly.

8. Imagine Winnipeg wants the swelling on Blake Wheeler’s leg to go down earlier than the Jets can decide the precise damage.

9. Edmonton GM Ken Holland to Scott Oake on After Hours: “We rating about 3.5 targets per sport, we surrender three. I feel we have now to discover a approach to get our goals-against down. It’s exhausting to attain 4 each evening… Definitely I wish to be a purchaser on the deadline, however we’ve acquired to win some hockey video games. Standings will dictate my pondering.”

The Oilers have thought-about upgrades in objective (relying on Mike Smith’s well being), left defence and third-line centre.

10. Jim Rutherford’s introduction to Vancouver clarified the timeline of Francesco Aquilini’s latest resume crawl. He reached out to Rutherford on the weekend of American Thanksgiving, visited him proper after in Carolina and wished to finalize issues the weekend of Dec. 3, solely to be delayed by the brand new President’s non-COVID sickness. On Dec. 4, the evening of the ugly home-ice defeat to Boston, Aquilini phoned Bruce Boudreau whereas the latter was attending a Christmas Get together in Hershey.

“He requested me if I used to be fascinated about alternative to educate the Canucks, and I mentioned completely,” Boudreau advised Gord Stellick. “The subsequent day, my agent phoned me…’Get your baggage packed.’ I mentioned, ‘What are you speaking about?’ And he goes, ‘You’re going to Vancouver if you would like this.’ And he learn me the deal, ‘Yeah, I’ll go immediately.’”

11. The factor we all the time overlook about opponents is that they all the time wish to depart on a excessive. It’s very, very tough to take action. Not everybody can stroll away after a ninth Cup like Scotty Bowman. However that doesn’t imply they don’t strive. Each Boudreau and Rutherford needed one other alternative, and it’s an added bonus for them it got here in Canada. Boudreau needed one probability to educate right here — “I don’t wish to cower away from the limelight… I wish to be the man that’s on the hook,” he mentioned — whereas there have been occasions Rutherford and Toronto eyed one another throughout GM openings, but it surely by no means acquired shut.

Teaching/managing in Canada has excessive dangers and excessive rewards. These two see the rewards. Two Leaf followers saving Vancouver? What a narrative.

12. One other nice line from Boudreau: he advised Caroline Cameron, “I’m making so many spelling errors, (the gamers) should suppose I’ve acquired my Grade 3 and that’s it.”

13. A couple of of his contemporaries smiled at Rutherford saying he’ll observe for a month earlier than assessing what he must do in Vancouver. “He’s been out a 12 months, he can’t wait to get in on the motion,” one exec mentioned. He’s working for permission on one AGM chance and there are many potentialities for GM. We talked about Patrik Allvin final weekend. One supply talked about Mark Hunter. I flip all CHL inquiries to Jeff Marek, whose intel mentioned no. However, one other supply talked about he’d heard Hunter, too. So we’ll see.

14. Play alongside on this one and assume NHLers are going to the Olympics. Massive stretch for Bo Horvat. I feel he’s on the bubble.

15. If all continues to plan, it’s potential Jack Eichel heads to Vegas early in 2022. He stays in Charlotte, with rehab going properly.

16. One thing needs to be performed about enchantment timelines. It doesn’t matter what you concentrate on Jason Spezza’s suspension, his beforehand clear file ought to earn him a good enchantment. Except Commissioner Bettman surprisingly drops him a sport, it’s nearly unimaginable to get to an impartial arbitrator earlier than the six video games are up. That’s not proper, particularly for somebody with no historical past.

17. Not vastly stunned Buffalo didn’t declare Anton Khudobin. The Sabres, if going for time period (Khudobin has another 12 months), would like somebody not as near the tip of their profession. As sport as Craig Anderson is, his well being has spooked them a bit.

18. Cale Makar is on-pace for 42 targets after scoring his thirteenth Tuesday evening in a 4-2 win over the Rangers. NHL file for a defenceman is Paul Coffey, 48 in 1985-86.

19. Very, very curious to see how a lot the Sonny Milano/Trevor Zegras NFT sells for.

20. NHL teaching extensions thus far this season: Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (duh), Colorado’s Jared Bednar and Toronto’s Sheldon Keefe, who have been each coming into their ultimate seasons. Additionally of their ultimate season: Craig Berube (St. Louis, very aggressive regardless of extraordinarily tough COVID/damage challenges); Dallas Eakins (Anaheim, first-place within the Pacific) and Dean Evason (Minnesota, first within the Central). Evason goes to get performed. The opposite two certain are incomes it, too.

21. Would offside critiques be any simpler on everybody if the problem wasn’t possession contained in the zone, however merely, “Do you contact the puck contained in the zone?”

22. On the Board of Governors, Bettman mentioned league monetary projections indicated escrow cash owed to house owners by gamers may very well be paid off by the summer season of 2024 — resulting in a cap soar. It’s formidable, and hopefully the Omicron wave doesn’t jeopardize that.

23. Actually loved final week’s podcast interview with Elvis Merzlikins. The Columbus goalie was glorious on a number of subjects. He has a popularity for dogged willpower, demanding a degree of excellence which may not be potential. (The good ones are sometimes like this.) He advised a fantastic story about his first win because the Latvian Nationwide Group netminder, a victory that he says took him three years to get.

Basking within the celebration, Merzlikins took pictures with followers and signed autographs whereas his mom, Sandra, noticed.

“Why are you smiling? Who’re you, a famous person?” Merzlikins mentioned she requested him. “What, I win my first sport, come on, be completely satisfied. The subsequent morning, she introduced me a gold medal with breakfast. I used to be like, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Oh you’re a famous person, you lastly received a freaking sport.’” Powerful crowd! “I’m pondering, ‘Mother, I performed actually nice. I deserve it and I received my first sport.’

“However my mother is my mother. I like her. That is why I’m the place I’m. She (raised me) like this. I like that. Clearly, you want the compliments, and you could really feel it and perceive, yeah you’re doing an excellent job. However not an excessive amount of. It’s higher to really feel that stress, and it’s higher to really feel one thing the place you probably did a mistake or one thing so you will get higher.”

24. Merzlikins’ highway to the NHL actually is exclusive. Eight years in the past, he left Latvia for Switzerland, the place Canadian goalie coach Michael Lawrence turned a key mentor. Merzlikins really began in hockey on defence.

“However I didn’t perceive my position,” he mentioned. “Once they have been taking pictures, I used to be catching the puck. When the (different) staff was attacking, I used to be enjoying as a goalie. Once I had the puck I used to be going as a ahead. I used to be egocentric, no passes, simply going on my own.”

His coaches declared he’d change positions and turn into a goalie. He had some expertise on the place lots of you’ll determine with. Merzlikins was usually caught in internet by his older brother throughout soccer or curler hockey video games. “I used to be all the time the goalie, they have been hammering that ball. I bear in mind I used to be within the nets with the tears, as a result of it was painful… to catch these balls towards my chest or my shoulders. However I acquired used to it.”

Merzlikins’ father, Vjaceslav, died when Elvis was younger, and Sandra will get a large berth as a result of she acquired him on the proper path. “We didn’t have a pleasant life (materially), she was on a regular basis combating to search out some cash to deliver me to hockey.” He went to Switzerland with out her at age 15, discovering a superb assist system permitting him to thrive. From there comes Merzlikins’ willpower, and he’s always demanding higher from himself.

The day earlier than we interviewed him (Dec. 6), the Blue Jackets beat San Jose 6-4, however he was irritated at a number of the targets he allowed. “I hate when there are ideas, why can’t save the tip? Clearly, it’s exhausting. On the similar time, I’ve to offer a tough time to myself as a result of I wish to be higher. I wish to catch them, I wish to save them, however then realistically you suppose, ‘You don’t have that point all the time to avoid wasting that factor. However I don’t care, discover the time.’ That is how I speak to myself. Perhaps it’s as a result of I develop up like this. I noticed (different goalies) who all the time had new pads, new helmets, new sticks… And seeing different boys, they ask, ‘Daddy, I desire a new stick,’ daddy simply goes there and buys him one, and my mother she couldn’t. I had one stick for 3 years. That is how I performed hockey. I feel that’s what constructed my character and my swagger. It’s by no means going to be sufficient for me.”

25. The checklist of NHL goalies who’ve scored in a sport is Martin Brodeur (thrice), Ron Hextall (twice), Billy Smith, Chris Osgood, Damian Rhodes, Jose Theodore, Evgeni Nabokov, Mika Noronen, Chris Mason, Cam Ward, Mike Smith and Pekka Rinne. We’ve heard Merzlikins is decided to hitch them. “Sure I’ll,” he mentioned. “I’ll as a result of I’m going to go for it. Even when I (get one), I’m not going to cease.”

26. Lastly, mentioned Matiss Kivlenieks, who tragically died final summer season in a fireworks accident. “I play each single sport for him,” the goalie mentioned, earlier than including that when he performs badly “in my head, I say that was simply me. I wasn’t enjoying for him, as a result of I wish to make (good video games) for him.”

He nonetheless retains in contact with Kivlenieks’ mom, Astrida, and sister, Madara. “His little sister turned my little sister… I’m going to deal with her till my final day. She’s going to be in my life now. If she’s going to want assist, she’s going to get it from me and my spouse as properly.”

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins taking warmups whereas sporting Matiss Kivlenieks’ No. 80. (NHL/Twitter)

27. One anonymously-made suggestion if the NHLers can’t go to China: Why not play the Olympic match within the West Coast? For instance, Seattle has one occasion scheduled at Local weather Pledge Enviornment from Jan. 29-Feb. 24. (That’s a Seattle College basketball sport on Feb. 10.) I do know it’s a rush to place it collectively, and it’s not going to be the complete Olympic expertise, however what’s excellent proper now? Construct the sport. Get the IOC to FedEx the medals. It’s higher than not enjoying in any respect.

28. Brandon Coe turned 20 on Dec. 1, and acquired a incredible reward from the San Jose Sharks — who drafted him 98th in 2020. It was an NHL contract, very deserving for the OHL’s second-leading scorer, up in North Bay. Previous to being chosen, he wrote an emotional piece for The Gamers’ Tribune, dedicating the honour to his father, Lance, who was recognized with most cancers late in 2016.

“I’d see him after video games and I may inform he wasn’t himself,” Coe wrote. “He was drained and there have been baggage underneath his eyes, however he was there. He was there. He was recognized earlier than my OHL profession began, and I feel he’s solely missed 30 video games thus far. That’s all of the motivation I have to do an additional rep of something.”

Following a short remission, Lance Coe’s most cancers returned and he handed away 9 days after the Sharks picked Brandon. The NHL journey continues for him and his mom Heather, with Lance watching from above.

29. Sending some good luck Daemon Hunt’s manner. The 2020 Minnesota choose, a defenceman at WHL Moose Jaw, is a fixture on the worldwide scene for Group Canada. Nevertheless, he caught COVID eventually 12 months’s World Junior camp, and was lower. This 12 months, he injured his hand in a sport towards Canadian College gamers and may’t play. That’s so much to deal with, all the very best.

30. John Gardner stood behind the bench for the primary time at Avon Outdated Farms — a prep college in Connecticut — in 1975. He received sport quantity 799 on March 4, 2020, 6-3 over Noble and Greenough Faculty in a convention playoff quarterfinal. Win quantity 800 took greater than 650 days, resulting from COVID, lastly coming earlier this month. Amongst his NHL Alumni: Cam Atkinson, Nick Bonino, Christopher Higgins, Brian Leetch, Jonathan Fast and Trevor Zegras.

31. 4 out of seven Canadian groups (Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) have had jerseys thrown on the ice this season.

32. Years in the past, we have been at a restaurant with my son (very younger on the time). He was tapping the window each time anybody walked by. Some individuals ignored it, some smiled, some gave a fast wave. No massive deal, he was having enjoyable. One couple stopped and spent nearly a minute waving back-and-forth to him, a lot to his delight. Was Mel and Marilyn Lastman. Made a younger boy’s day.

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