The NHL has shut down two more teams through the Christmas break as COVID-19 cases have continued rising around the league.
On Monday, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens both had their team activities paused until after Dec. 26. They were the eighth and ninth teams that the NHL has closed down in the last week, joining Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins.
Columbus was shut down after several of its players tested positive for COVID on Sunday, and three more were added to the list on Monday. The NHL cited “concern with the number of positive cases within the last several days as well as concern for continued COVID spread” as the reason for canceling the Blue Jackets games on Monday and Thursday, both against Buffalo.
Prior to news of the pause, Columbus had canceled its morning skate Monday while awaiting COVID-19 test results. The Blue Jackets had already canceled last Sunday’s practice in the wake of three positive tests. The team could resume practice Sunday if cleared by the league and Columbus is scheduled to face Toronto next Monday. That game could be in jeopardy as well though, since games involving teams that have to travel across the U.S.-Canada border were postponed this week.
That’s where Montreal’s shutdown comes in. The Canadiens were meant to be a on a three-game swing facing the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils that ended on Dec. 23, but due to concerns about players testing positive for COVID and being stuck on the wrong side of the border, those games were all postponed on Sunday.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association said in a joint press release Sunday that the plan was to avoid a full shutdown of the league and just pause teams on a case-by-case basis. The scheduled Christmas break was already in place for Dec. 24-26, with games set to resume on Dec. 27.
“We will continue to play the 2021-22 regular season schedule,” the parties said on Sunday in a joint statement. “Although there has been a recent increase in positive COVID test results among players, coaches and hockey staff, there have been a low number of positive cases that have resulted in concerning symptoms or serious illness.”