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Haven’t we done this before? From NHL postponements to NFL positives, COVID-19 continues to cause problems

The Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary was due to host five straight Flames home games beginning on Thursday, but the first of those was among the games postponed by the NHL due to the team's burgeoning COVID-19 outbreak.Derek Leung/Getty

Thanks to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, a surge in COVID-19 cases is disrupting the fates and fortunes of sports teams and leagues around the globe, including in Boston.

The Bruins’ Brad Marchand and Craig Smith landed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday, meaning they missed Tuesday night’s game against Vegas and could miss up to five more. Coach Bruce Cassidy returned to the team Monday after spending two weeks in the protocol.

The Calgary Flames, whom the Bruins played on Saturday, had three games this week postponed. That decision came before three more players entered protocol on Tuesday, running the team total to nine.


The Carolina Hurricanes, who played Calgary last Thursday, saw their Tuesday game against the Minnesota Wild postponed, with four additional positive tests putting the Hurricanes’ total at six. Their game was the NHL’s ninth postponement this season, joining Calgary’s and five last month including the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders.

The NHL said in a statement it will provide a further update Wednesday. Plans to go on break in early February to allow its players to participate in the Beijing Olympics may be in doubt, should the league opt to use that planned break to re-schedule games.

Just four weeks away from the scheduled start to its playoffs, the National Football League is confronting interruptions on multiple fronts. A rash of positive tests — 37 on Monday, with at least 25 more expected on Tuesday according to ESPN — is sidelining players and changing plans.

The Los Angeles Rams added nine players to their reserve-COVID-19 list on Tuesday, and both the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions met virtually in order to minimize further spread.

Odell Beckham Jr. was among nine players placed on COVID-19 list by Los Angeles Rams.Christian Petersen/Getty

According to multiple reports, the league sent a memo to all teams on Monday that non-playing personnel in close contact with players will be required to wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status, and that they will be expected to receive their booster shots no later than Dec. 27.


The NFL Players Association is reportedly seeking daily testing of all players — vaccinated players currently are tested once a week, the unvaccinated daily — but the league is sticking with its plan.

The NBA had to postpone the Chicago Bulls’ games on Tuesday and Thursday night, the league’s first two postponements of the season, after a team breakout put 10 players on the league’s health and safety protocol. (Chicago’s Sunday tip time was also pushed back.)

The Brooklyn Nets have seven players out because of COVID-19, including James Harden and Bruce Brown, giving it the minimum required eight active for their Tuesday game against Toronto. The Los Angeles Lakers — scheduled to play in Chicago on Sunday — canceled Tuesday’s practice after Talen Horton-Tucker tested positive.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and guard Wes Matthews entered the protocol for Milwaukee, and won’t be available for the Bucks game on Wednesday.

As of Tuesday morning, 51 NBA players have entered health and safety protocol this season, missing a combined 41 games. Thirty-six of those positive cases, according to ESPN, occurred in the last two weeks.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has entered the protocol for Milwaukee, and won’t be available for the Bucks game on Wednesday..Charles Krupa/Associated Press

England’s Premier League had to cancel Tuesday evening’s Manchester United-Brentford match after an outbreak among the Manchester squad. With a record-high number of positive cases reported Monday, the EPL has exercised emergency measures that include testing players in their cars when they arrive for workouts or games, not allowing them to get out without a negative test.


The Bundesliga, the top German soccer league, will continue with its schedule but attendance will be cut to 50 percent capacity.

When the full force of the pandemic struck in March 2020, all active leagues shut down, with Major League Baseball’s spring training interrupted. An abbreviated season began in July, with no fans at games until the NL Championship Series and World Series in Texas.

Both the NBA and NHL resumed that August, playing in bubbles in front of no fans. The NFL played its full season last year, with varied attendance restrictions.

MLB played a full season in 2021, lifting all of its attendance limits by the middle of the summer when the pandemic eased.

With its lucrative TV deals, the NFL’s revenue streams were the least interrupted, butgame-day ticket and concessions losses were steep across all sports, costing billions of dollars.

Baseball’s in a self-imposed lockout during its offseason. Whether or not the surge will mean a lockdown of the leagues in season remains to be seen.

Michael Silverman can be reached at