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Colby Guy: Covid should force NHL players out of Olympics

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Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers is all but assured to be part of Team Canada at the upcoming Winter Games in Beijing — if the NHL players decide to go. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

The NHL now has five teams, including the Florida Panthers, who have seen their NHL seasons put on hold due to Covid running wild through the league.

The NHL seems to realize Covid is very much a problem although it has not done enough.

The five teams — Florida, Colorado, Boston, Nashville and Calgary — who have been shut down are not the only ones dealing with Covid issues.

Toronto, Detroit, Carolina, Vancouver and Edmonton Oilers all have multiple players on Covid lists.

In November, the New York Islanders notably played four games with almost half their lineup missing before the NHL finally postponed two of their games on Nov. 27.

The Islanders lost all four of those games in regulation.

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The Predators also played two games while missing as many as eight players and their entire NHL coaching staff due to Covid protocols.

Nashville, somehow, fared a lot better than New York did, winning both games they played in limbo.

While the NHL has gotten better at avoiding situations like the Islanders and the Predators went through — the Panthers only played one game shorthanded before their games were postponed — the league definitely needs to look at the bigger picture.

There is a three-week break in the schedule this season as the NHL is preparing to send its players to the 2022 Winter Olympics in China come February.

The league does not want them to go, never really did.

The players, through the NHLPA, have said they want to represent their respective countries on the world’s biggest stage.

Yet this newest burst of Covid-related issues have quite a few of them thinking about it with fresh eyes.

Last week, Olympic organizers announced that athletes who test positive for Covid while in China for the Games will be required to quarantine for three to five weeks — not at home but in Beijing — before being allowed to leave.

This means a player could miss anywhere from 10-15 NHL games if they happened to contract the virus during the latter half of the Olympics.

With so many players testing positive these days, yeah, some are wondering whether it is the wise choice to go this time around.

”I think all the players are thinking about that,” Jonathan Huberdeau said before the Panthers took the ice on Thursday night.

“You don’t want to be stuck in China. It’s something we have to talk about. But right now, it’s not my preoccupation.”

Edmonton Oilers captain and face of the league Connor McDavid also chimed in on the situation.

He is one of three players already named to Team Canada’s Olympic roster.

“There hasn’t been a ton of information come out, and then there’s that three-to-five week (quarantine) thing,” McDavid said. “It’s kind of been floating around. Obviously, it’s unsettling if that were to be the case when you go over there.”

Simply put, a player missing three to five weeks of the NHL season could catastrophically affect the way a team’s season goes.

Especially if it’s a player of McDavid’s caliber.

The NHL should have said no to sending their players to the Olympics from the moment they heard about the quarantine rule.

Past the competitive balance aspect of it, their player will have to quarantine in an area unknown to them in a place that is a 24-hour flight away for nearly, if not, an entire month.

The human aspect of it is simple. It is something that would take a serious toll on the player, so it should not happen.

From the money aspect of it, there is also no sense taking the risk.

The IIHF runs the Olympics, not the NHL, so they would not profit off of it and the player who gets quarantined would not be receiving their game checks for any of the games they miss.

It is what is best for player safety at this point in time.

Looking at the NHL’s current situation at the moment, the league should take a break until New Year’s as a start. Then, if players are out of the Olympics, try to use that three week break to reschedule games.

With 13 different franchises all having at least one positive test, there is little doubt that nearly every team in the league has been exposed to the virus recently.

Giving the players a two-week break to reset away from the rink to limit the spread could do wonders for limiting the number of cases the league has, and in turn, limit the number of games that are postponed going forward.

Not to mention, this time of year is an opportune time to allow players to spend time with their families during the holidays.

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