On Christmas Eve, the pandemic decided to deliver another lump of coal. The National Hockey League announced earlier this evening that the season will not resume on December 27 as originally planned. It has been officially pushed back to December 28. This means that 14 games scheduled for Monday - including the game where the New Jersey Devils would play on the road against the St. Louis Blues - will be re-scheduled. Here is the statement from the league, wherein I highlighted a quote from deputy commissioner Bill Daly:
The NHL will resume play Tuesday to allow the League to analyze COVID-19 test results and assess readiness to play.
Teams will return from the holiday break to practice Sunday. The season was expected to start back with 14 games Monday, but those games have been postponed.
“We’ve sent out communication with clubs and we’re trying to confirm their open building dates, which we have a sense of from earlier communications earlier in the season,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday. “We obviously will work very close with the Players’ Association. I do think we’ll have to build in some off time during that three-week period for the players as they had anticipated previously. There are a lot of boxes to check there, but I expect that we’ll be able to portion some portion of that break period to various clubs to get their players rested, and I hope to make full utilization of the period so that we can make up the games that we’ve missed.”
That three-week break in February could now include these 14 games pending arena and team availability. Assuming the league does decide to resume play on December 28, then the Devils’ next game will be in Buffalo on December 29.
This is an assumption because the situation is very fluid and it could change. After all, within 48 hours of last Sunday’s games, the NHL went from shutting down a few teams to banning cross-border games to an early holiday break to shut down the league. Per Elliotte Friedman on Twitter, the “next update planned for Sunday.” This means the NHL could see whether the COVID situation is improving or not and make a change after Christmas.
If that does happen, do not be too shocked if the league’s season is paused until January 1, 2022. The Winter Classic is still planned to happen between Minnesota and Nashville. Given that is the league’s marquee event in this time of year, the NHL would surely want to do what they can to ensure at least that game still happens. And while not going to the Olympics frees up those three(ish) weeks in February, further postponements may become too much to make up in that time period. The NHL is not in a position to have an indefinite pause. However, their hands may be forced if they find out by Sunday that the situation is not getting any better. The best case scenario is to hope and pray that the number of players and personnel in COVID protocols goes down and quickly.