NHL announces early pause through holiday break due to COVID-19 outbreak

The holiday break will begin following the Golden Knights’ home game on Tuesday.

The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association announced Monday night that they have agreed to pause all operations between Dec. 22-25 in an effort to combat the widespread COVID-19 outbreaks across the league.

All five games scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 23 have been postponed, including the matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights. As such, the holiday break will commence two days early at the conclusion of Tuesday’s games.

Of the 10 games originally scheduled for Tuesday, only two are set to proceed as planned: Washington at Philadelphia and Tampa Bay at Vegas. This means the Knights will play the final game before the early shutdown.

Team facilities will re-open on Sunday, with the season set to resume Monday, Dec. 27.

The announcement comes just days after the league introduced stricter COVID-19 protocols, which include the reintroduction of daily testing as well as possible pre-game testing on a case-by-case basis. The new policies will be in effect through Jan. 1 and will be re-evaluated by Jan. 7.

Prior to Monday’s news, many teams — including Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, Colorado, Nashville, Columbus, Florida, Calgary and Boston — were shut down through the holiday break, resulting in a plethora of postponed games.

The league announced Sunday that all cross-border games between teams based in the U.S. and Canada also would be postponed through the break. At this point, a total of 49 games have been postponed this season.

The NHL has stated that the omicron variant is responsible for the massive uptick in COVID-19 cases throughout the league.

The Golden Knights are one of 10 teams with no players currently on the COVID-19 protocol list; the list now features more than 100 players.

The massive strain on the NHL schedule could have broader implications for the players’ participation in the Olympics in February. The NHL and NHLPA are in discussions about the matter; an update is expected in the coming days.

The NHL has until Jan. 10 to opt out of the Olympics without financial retribution, though the league still may cancel participation up until players are set to travel.