Covid-19 Sports Postponements: NHL Pauses Season Early, NBA Warns of Possible Christmas Day Schedule Changes
In light of the recent surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, pro sports leagues and colleges have postponed or canceled several events. Here’s a look at the most recent changes to the U.S. sports schedule.
Wednesday’s Raptors at Bulls game and Thursday’s Nets at Trail Blazers contest have been postponed, due to Brooklyn and Toronto not having the required eight players available for their games.
Nine games in total have been postponed, but the NBA has no plans to pause the season, commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this week. The league has also told teams that shifting some game times is a possibility for the five-game Christmas Day slate.
The NFL postponed three Week 15 games due to Covid-19 issues: Saturday’s game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cleveland Browns was moved to Monday (on NFL Network), while Sunday’s meetings between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams were moved to Tuesday (on Fox).
In addition, the NFL announced new Covid-19 protocols, which will include “a more targeted testing plan, more flexibility for players to attend meetings virtually and also a high-risk player opt-out for the remainder of the season.” The new protocols call for testing vaccinated players less frequently.
As of today, no Week 16 NFL games have rescheduled.
On Monday, the NHL announced it would pause the current season until after Christmas Day. The Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers game scheduled for Tuesday was postponed by the NHL because of COVID-19 concerns. It brings the total of games postponed this season to 50, including 32 this week. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed Monday to postpone five games Thursday, the day before the holiday break was scheduled to begin.
In addition, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association have come to an agreement to not participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic men’s hockey tournament in Beijing.
No. 25 Texas A&M was forced to pull out of the Gator Bowl because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the program that prevented the Aggies from fielding enough healthy players. As a result, Rutgers is expected to take Texas A&M’s place for Dec. 31 matchup against No. 17 Wake Forest.
Meanwhile, the University of Miami football team has been hit by a COVID-19 outbreak of its own, but still hopes to play in the Dec. 31 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl against Washington State.
Looking ahead, the College Football Playoff has announced new protocols for potentially postponing or canceling games this year amid the recent covid-19 surge. Semifinal games will not be made up if a team does not have enough players available due to COVID-19 cases. If a team is unable to field enough players, it would forfeit the game and its opponent would advance to the CFP National Championship. If one of the teams advancing to the National Championship game is unable to play, the game could be postponed to no later than Jan. 14. If one team is still unable to play by that date, the game will be declared a “forfeit” and the remaining healthy team will be national champion.
In total, more than 120 men’s and women’s basketball games have been canceled due to Covid-19 thus far this season with the bulk of these games cancelled in the past week as a result of the recent surge. In addition, more than 50 Div. 1 men’s college basketball programs have shut down temporarily, including UCLA, Ohio State, USC, Memphis, Syracuse, and Seton Hall (full list here).
Among the most notable cancellations, Kentucky and Louisville cancelled their annual rivalry game, scheduled for Wednesday, due to multiple COVID positives in Louisville’s program.
In addition, conferences are now looking to make adjustments and even change their forfeit rules and dozens more games are likely to be lost due to the recent Covid-19 spike.