The NHL will pause its season on Wednesday, two days before its planned Christmas break, the league announced Monday evening.
All NHL team facilities will be closed from Wednesday through Saturday as the league tries to weather several COVID-19 outbreaks. Players are set to report back to team facilities on Sunday and resume daily testing. The NHL schedule is set to resume on Dec. 27.
The decision left just three games on the NHL slate before the break: Monday's game between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild, Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+), and Tuesday's game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights.
While the Stars beat the Wild 7-4 Monday, the NHL postponed the Capitals-Flyers game Tuesday afternoon due to a COVID outbreak with Washington.
It has been a challenging week for the NHL, as 11 teams have suspended operations and the league postponed all games through Christmas that involved cross-border travel between Canada and the U.S. More than 15% of the league's players were in virus protocols as of Monday night.
Including games affected by the pause starting Wednesday, 50 games have been postponed. The NHL views that as material damage to the schedule, which is sufficient cause for the league to exercise its opt-out clause for player participation in the Beijing Olympics, sources told ESPN. The NHL is expected to make an Olympic announcement as soon as this week.
The NHL reintroduced stricter protocols this week for players, including daily testing (instead of once every three days), social distancing measures and restrictions on where players can go when they are not at home, the hotel or the rink.
There is only one player who is not vaccinated in the NHL: Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi. The NHL and NHLPA have recommended the vaccine booster to players but do not have plans to mandate it this season.