Truthful commentary from frustrated players on Canada’s strict rules hurting NHL, questions persist on adjusting COVID Protocol

With another game postponed as NHL play resumed tonight, there’s no end in sight to the COVID issues hurting the league. While other major sports such as the NFL and NBA revise their rules to make recovery quicker for asymptomatic players in protocol, the NHL is finding it more difficult.

That’s due to having seven Canadian teams. With the enforcement tougher north of the border, many games have been postponed. With the NHL in a bind having to make up in surplus of 50 games now that the Olympics are out, February will be a busier month. Many games will be rescheduled for the period the league originally put aside for Beijing.

Some players are starting to show frustration with the slow process at dealing with new CDC recommendations for reducing the number of days a player can miss. In the NFL, it’s now five days if a player is asymptomatic and tests negative. That means Carson Wentz could still play for the Colts versus the Raiders despite being unvaccinated. A fair way to go about it.

Lightning NHLPA player representative Alex Killorn spoke out about the serious issues the NHL is facing. He was very honest and specific about the way the Covid Omicron variant is being handled in Canada, where Team USA was forced to forfeit their Group B game against Switzerland earlier this afternoon due to a mandatory self quarantine after three players tested positive at the U20 World Junior Championships in Edmonton.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s NHLPA representative Alex Killorn had this to say about his thoughts and where he placed the blame.

“Either something’s got to change or we’re just going to have to deal with it and just know that the product’s going to be inferior that we’re putting on the ice…

It seems like it’s always Canada that’s the reason that a lot of things don’t happen, so I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that. But it seems reasonable that we would do that and implement it as soon as possible.”

It’s painfully obvious that the way Canada is being governed isn’t helping the cause. I’ve communicated with plenty of acquaintances who live in Ontario. They’re extremely upset with how little they can do. For one friend, she couldn’t even see her family for Christmas. Definitely a hard time for people who live up North.

When it comes to canceling games due to locking down the border which means no American teams can travel, it only makes one wonder how they’re ever going to be able to pull off a full 82-game schedule. What if things don’t change? There are plenty of NHL players in COVID Protocol. It is complicated. There doesn’t seem to be a solution to fix the problem.

If Hockey Canada and the IIHF can force USA to forfeit a game when every other available player was negative, why can’t the NHL force Canadian teams that can’t play to forfeit home games? I know it will never come to that as it would put into question the integrity of the league. But what happened with our young players at that tournament is an absolute joke.

Furthermore, the same IIHF decided to cancel the U18 women’s tournament. How is that exactly fair? So, it’s okay to allow men’s hockey players to compete in a pandemic, but not women? Where’s the logic? There is none. I could care less what they told Ray Ferraro, who obviously has to toe the company line during the TSN broadcast with Gord Miller. But it’s sad that they pushed back the 18 and Under women’s tournament.

None of these developments are good for hockey. We all love the sport and want what’s best. Instead, we’re seeing the worst due to utter confusion at every level over how to handle a pandemic that’s almost two years in. At some point, they have to make it easier for the players.

The bottom line is they can’t keep postponing games. That won’t work. Even without the ridiculous Olympic interruption that no other major sport has to worry about, many arenas have other events booked that they’re committed to. They have to play the games and make up every single one missed.

In regards to realignment, that’s a resounding no. Stop catering to Canada. They got their way last year. We all now know how tainted the Canadiens’ run was. Carey Price covered up a lot of mistakes. But they only reached the Stanley Cup Final due to playing in the North Division.

If you already are in the middle of a season, you can’t change the divisions. This isn’t musical chairs. It’s a real sport with established divisions and two conferences. Let’s keep it that way.

I’m not going to bother with Brad Marchand’s criticism of the NHL not being able to allow the players to compete in the Olympics. I was against it due to China and their ridiculous three week quarantine for any player who tests positive. Imagine the amount of pressure an Olympian will experience. It’s absurd.

Ryan Strome also had some interesting commentary on the league issues. Here’s what he thought about things.

Undoubtedly, players are concerned about what will happen. There’s still over half the season to play. That is if they do play the full amount. What we are left with are only more questions. At some critical point soon, the NHL must provide the answers.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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