I guess it only took a month for us to realize that despite the fact the NHL is basically 99% vaccinated at this point, we’re not quite on the other side of this pandemic yet. With Ottawa now having double-digit players in COVID protocol the surprise wasn’t that their games this week (including tomorrow’s against the Devils and Saturday’s against the Rangers) got postponed. It’s more of a surprise that it took this long to be honest, given the Senators’ precarious situation over the last several days, not even having a team practice since the 5th – ten days ago. Ottawa has lost five straight games since Austin Watson became the first player placed in COVID protocol on the 6th, and last night had no fewer than ten players and a couple of assistants on the COVID list.
My question is, what took the NHL so long? Clearly Ottawa was compromised over the last week. I know there’s no magic number in terms of how many players being in protocol is too many, and it’s still a bit unclear how many of these players have actually had breakthrough infections and how many are merely close contacts without a positive test yet. Still, there’s only so much teams can do in terms of replacing players, you only have one AHL team and maybe in some cases an ECHL team. Bringing guys up from the AHL for the NHL team is one thing, but you also have to fill out an AHL roster with tryouts, ECHL guys and the like. Not only that but there’s always the chance this virus spreads in-game, Buffalo was out for several days last season with guys in protocol after we played them with an impending outbreak.
And I don’t want to hear the nonsense about how this proves the vaccine doesn’t matter or any of that junk. Obviously breakthrough infections and exposure are possible even with the vaccine, the point is the vaccine clearly limits the more severe symptoms, helps limit transmission and also just lessens the chances you will get the virus to begin with. It’s not going to be a zero chance in the near future, so everyone just still has to be on their guard, perhaps get a booster if you can and be more careful in the winter months as everything moves indoors. We all have COVID fatigue to a certain extent, nobody (particularly those of us who are vaccinated) wants to hear about social distancing and masks at this point but we have to face reality too, this disease still isn’t going away in the immediate future <end mini-soapbox rant>
Back in our bubble of hockey, we know all too well how a COVID outbreak can derail a season. Instead of the Devils’ next game being at home tomorrow against Ottawa they’ll get an early start on their Florida trip and two more tough games on Thursday and Saturday, after they’ve somehow gotten five points in the previous four games, despite not playing particularly well in long stretches. As of now there’s no makeup date announced for any of the games, but they probably will be once we see how long this break winds up being for Ottawa. All of us wish the best for their players and staff.