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At last count, the Maple Leafs had seven players and two coaches sidelined with COVID-19, and on Monday added two members of their support staff to the list.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs have not played in a week and, at minimum, will go 13 days between games. And even that is not a sure thing. Their next scheduled contest is Dec. 27 in Columbus. Late Monday night, the NHL and the players’ association announced in a joint statement that NHL team facilities will be closed until Boxing Day.

This is what happens when hockey and a more contagious new strand of COVID-19 intersect. No pro sports league has been spared, but hockey has been hit particularly hard.

Toronto headed out for its longest western road swing of the season last week and returned seven days later having played just once. There is nothing like travelling 8,000 kilometres round trip to hide in hotel rooms in an unsuccessful stab at avoiding the Omicron variant.

At last count, the Maple Leafs had seven players and two coaches sidelined with COVID-19, and on Monday added two members of their support staff to the list. They have had four games cancelled and that actually makes them quite fortunate. All but a few of Calgary’s players have tested positive. The Flames have had seven games scrubbed. If they face Edmonton on Dec. 27 as scheduled they will have been idle for 16 days.

That is the length of the Beijing Games.

At this point, there appears to be little chance that NHL players will participate in the Winter Olympics. The league said Sunday it is in discussions with the players’ union and would arrive at a decision this week.

“[If they don’t go] my opinion is that it is a smart decision,” Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour said Monday. “I don’t know why anyone would want to go in these circumstances.”

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Math has never been my strong suit, but the calculus looks pretty daunting.

There are more than 140 players sidelined owing to COVID-19 and about 50 games have now been postponed.

In an 82-game season with a three-week break for the Olympics built in, the logistics of rescheduling are daunting.

The Penguins’ game in Pittsburgh on Tuesday against New Jersey was one of the latest to be postponed “due to COVID-related issues affecting the Devils.” That is the way the NHL described it in a one-paragraph news release. The Penguins are also supposed to be at home on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

If that one is cancelled they won’t play again until Dec. 27. The Devils are already done now until after Boxing Day.

It has gotten to where the league is using boilerplate language to share news of most postponements.

The bigger issue is how to resolve the fixture logjam.

Baseball teams can play seven-inning doubleheaders. Hockey isn’t so lucky. Abbreviated games are impractical and they still would not solve the cross-border travel issue. The NHL’s schedules are more complicated than other leagues’ because seven teams are in Canada. That has started to become an issue with the rapid rise in COVID-19 infections and two countries with different health regulations.

The league and players have already said they don’t want to go into a lengthy shutdown. They might not have a choice. If the arenas are available, could all the postponed games be made up while the league is shut down during the Olympic break? Could we see Canadian teams all back in one division while the latest wave is ridden out?

It is hard to tell what is on the table and what’s not.

On Monday, a game between Canadian and U.S. women’s hockey teams in Minnesota was cancelled owing to COVID-19 concerns. The teams have been on an exhibition tour. The rivals are scheduled to play again in Alberta on Jan. 3 and Jan. 6.

Earlier the Oilers announced that their top defenceman, Darnell Nurse, and fellow blueliner William Lagesson had gone into COVID-19 protocol. That brings the team’s number of COVID-19 cases to eight.

That Flames-Oilers game in Calgary on Dec. 27th? The only thing perfectly clear now is that nothing is perfectly clear.

Canada pulled its team out of the Spengler Cup on Monday. So much is going on in the hockey world that it is barely worth a footnote. The world juniors are scheduled to start this weekend in Edmonton, and pretournament games are being reduced. Organizers have stopped selling tickets.

Years ago, I worked with a newspaper editor who was extremely religious. He never ever cursed. In the midst of a computer-system meltdown one night, he turned to the rest of the newsroom and shouted, “We’re really in the pickle juice now here, boys!”

We are indeed.