NHL Senators sale COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 24: A general view of the NHL logo prior to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition at the Nationwide Arena on January 24, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

While all sports have been affected by high outbreaks of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, that’s been maybe particularly notable in hockey (which makes sense, given research on how hockey rink conditions may contribute to COVID spread). There, we’ve seen numerous NHL games postponed, we’ve seen NHL players withdraw from the Beijing Olympics, and we’ve seen the IIHF U-20 men’s world juniors canceled (following initial attempts to proceed with that tournament despite canceling the upcoming women’s U18 championships, attempts which fell down after repeated outbreaks). And on Friday, the NHL announced they’ve postponed nine further games. However, rather than being about particular team outbreaks, these cancelations are about Canadian teams’ home provinces bringing in strict restrictions on fan attendance at games amidst Omicron’s spread:

There’s some logic to these postponements. Going ahead with these games at this point would come with a lot of hurdles, both from increased Canadian border travel restrictions and from the inability to have expected numbers of fans at these games. (It’s also smart of the league to add the Islanders-Kraken game here; while there isn’t a border issue there, there’s no logic to having the Islanders fly out west for one game when they could potentially get four western games in a row on a made-up road trip when things are better.) And there’s certainly a chance that the COVID situation may be more under control later in 2022.

It’s also notable that there are already a lot of postponed NHL games, so it’s not like these are the first ones to go down. And the league as a whole may need to shift its playoff schedule back considering events to this point. So bumping another number of games has some merit, and that’s particularly important for these teams if they do wind up being able to have full or close-to-full houses later in the year; that’s a lot of revenue. However, where COVID goes from here is far from certain, and it’s definitely not clear that the Canadian federal and provincial governments are going to permit full houses for hockey games in a month or two. We’ll see how this postponement works out in the end.

[@PR_NHL on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.