This past weekend, the National Hockey League announced 27 re-scheduled games including 13 for the New Jersey Devils. Based on the announcement, the Devils were set to resume their season this Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers on February 11. That was the plan until this afternoon. That game is not happening on the 11th. The National Hockey League has announced 7 more games to be postponed, which includes the next three Devils games, the next three games for Buffalo and the next two games for Minnesota.
This means the Devils will not be playing on Thursday or Saturday in Philadelphia or next Monday in Boston. Assuming there are no further postponements or changes to the schedule, the New Jersey Devils will be visiting Our Hated Rivals next Tuesday on the 16th to resume their season. I put a question mark in the headline because I do not know if that will actually happen. I was hopeful that this Thursday would be the return of Devils hockey up until about an hour ago. As ever, the schedule is subject to change.
Today’s update of the NHL Protocol List will be announced later this afternoon. As of yesterday, Connor Carrick came off of it and Eric Comrie was added to it. The Devils’ list stayed the same at 16. Unfortunately, the Buffalo Sabres - New Jersey’s previous opponent - saw their list grow to nine players with Rasmus Dahlin being the latest addition. Worse, according to John Vogl of The Athletic, the two linesmen at the Devils-Sabres games that weekend also entered COVID-19 protocols.
UPDATE: Tom Gulitti posted the league’s COVID-19 Protocol List for the day. The Devils are now up to 19 due to three additions: Carrick, Sami Vatanen, and Nico Hischier. Players would need to go through these protocols to join the team, so it is not necessarily the case that those three are at risk of anything or tested positive. I think this is possible also because Carrick has not been with the team until January 30 (did not play, left to go see his newborn) and both Vatanen and Hischier have not been a part of the team in 2021.
The latter bit is especially bad news in that it is further evidence in favor of the likelihood that this virus can be transmitted during games and on the ice. While all involved may have been aware of that risk ahead of this season, that it is now a reality may make more hesitant to continue. I still think the NHL will push through to complete the season as other pro leagues have done in 2020 and 2021. I do not think we will see a league-wide pause unless more and more teams are infected or there is a change in the virus that necessitates further shutdown. But those involved are right to at least be more concerned.
I am hopeful that the Devils are able to resume play next week. My understanding is that it takes roughly two weeks to recover from the Coronavirus. Next Tuesday would be 15 days after the now-infamous January 31 game in Buffalo. Provided there are no complications between now and then, we could see a return then. I want to believe there is one. I miss the Devils. But I understand the severity of the situation. The right thing to do is to postpone the next few games to ensure as many Devils are able to return when their season effectively resumes.
As an aside, if you are looking for something Devils-related to do, might I recommend catching the Binghamton Devils playing their first game in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton today? It is on. They are cleared to perform. It is free on AHLTV after signing up. It even starts at 5 PM so you do not need to wait long for that.