The NHL’s plan to shoehorn nearly 100 pandemic postponements into its jam-packed schedule window came into focus Wednesday.
The league unveiled new dates for 98 games scrubbed during a two-month stretch because of COVID-19 outbreaks – as well as coronavirus-related attendance restrictions in Canadian markets – with most being plugged into what would have been February’s Olympic break.
The NHL also announced date changes for 23 other games.
The league and NHL Players’ Association backed out of the 2022 Beijing Olympics last month after a rash of coronavirus shutdowns that forced a string of postponements before and after an extended holiday pause.
A total of 95 games are now slated to be played during the 16-day window between Feb. 7 and 22 when NHL stars would have been in China chasing a gold medal.
The Ottawa Senators have had an NHL-high 14 games scrubbed so far in 2021-22, with just two played and rescheduled prior to Wednesday.
Despite the schedule shuffle, the league remains on course to finish the regular season April 29.
“We are profoundly grateful to our fans for their support and understanding during a challenging time and to our clubs, the NHL Players’ Association and the players for their co-operation in a rescheduling of unprecedented logistical complexity,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.
The Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets are currently not allowed to have fans in attendance at games because of provincial COVID-19 restrictions on crowd sizes, while the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames must cap attendance at 50 per cent.
Those teams all postponed games over the past month in hopes spectators would be allowed to return later in the season.
“Assuming we may be past our most disruptive scheduling period, I would think that Canadian-based games are less likely to be rescheduled going forward,” Daly wrote in an e-mail to The Canadian Press this week.
Including the games moved to accommodate postponements, the Senators will play 17 times on different days than originally scheduled followed by Toronto (14), Montreal (13), Edmonton (10), Calgary (10), Winnipeg (nine) and Vancouver (seven).