Flyers, host Habs play without fans . . . NHLer suggests season be paused . . . B.C. restrictions coming today?

Merry Christmas . . .


Welcome to the start of the college football bowl season. That’s right. It kicks off today with the Bahamas Bowl in Nassau. . . . It’s the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (6-6) against the Toledo Rockets (7-5), and it’s on TSN at 9 a.m. PT (noon ET). It’ll be the ESPN telecast with Matt Barrie calling the play, Booger McFarland doing the analysis, and Katie George on the sidelines. . . . The Rockets are 10-point faves and the over-under is 50.5. . . . Enjoy!


Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The tragedy is that we could have been long-since done with all this pandemic. If everyone masks, everyone gets vaccinated, the coronavirus has no place to go and it dies.

“Sports could have played a bigger role, but a few — too many — athletes decided they were stronger than COVID-19 and smarter than scientists.”


The Montreal Canadiens got past the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2 in a shootout, in the Bell Centre on Thursday night without any fans in attendance. CovidThe decision to play in an empty building was made late in the afternoon at the request of Quebec public health officials. . . . The Canadiens said they will have clarity regarding their next game — Saturday against the Boston Bruins — sometime this morning. . . . “We have obtained assurances that we will be able to welcome our fans to our January games at 50 per cent capacity.” . . .

The Nashville Predators put F Nick Cousins and assistant coach Dan Hinote into COVID-19 protocol on Thursday before beating the visiting Colorado Avalanche, 5-2. . . . The Predators had seven players and seven staff members in protocol. Hinote was to have run the bench last night, with head coach Dan Hynes and assistants Dan Lambert and Todd Richards also in protocol. Instead, they brought in head coach Karl Taylor and assistant Scott Ford from their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. They were joined by assistant GM Scott Nichol. . . . The Avalanche was without G Darcy Kuemper and D Cole Makar, who went into protocol just prior to game time, as well as F Andre Burakovsky, F J.T. Compher and D Devon Toews, and ended up playing with 11 forwards and five defenceman. . . .

The Calgary Flames added two more players to the list on Thursday. At that point, they had 18 players, three coaches and eight support staff in protocol. The Flames also confirmed that the Omicron variant was present in some of the positive tests. . . . F Dillon Dube and D Oliver Kylington were the latest to join the list. That left only F Matthew Tkachuk, G Dan Vladar, F Blake Coleman, F Michael Stone, and F Mikael Backlund as roster players who hadn’t yet tested positive. . . . Calgary’s games have been postponed through Saturday. . . .

The Edmonton Oilers added F Devin Shore to the list where he joined head coach Dave Tippett and F Ryan McLeod. . . . Edmonton then went out and beat the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-2. . . .

The Carolina Hurricanes managed to arrange for a private plane to pick up F Sebastian Aho, F Seth Jarvis and a member of the training staff, who had been quarantining in Vancouver, and take them to Minneapolis. There, they pick up four players who were in isolation and then took everyone home to Raleigh. . . . The Hurricanes dressed 10 forwards and six defencemen for Thursday’s game against the visiting Detroit Red Wings, which they won, 5-3. . . .

The Boston Bruins placed F Anton Blidh, F Trent Frederic, G Jeremey Swayman and a staff member into protocol, where they joined F Patrice Bergeron, F Brad Marchand and F Craig Smith. . . . The Bruins dropped a 3-1 decision to the host New York Islanders last night. . . . If you watched the game on TV, did you get the feeling that Boston play-by-play voice Jack Edwards was unhappy about not being in the building? . . .

Before losing, 4-1, to the visiting Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, the Florida Panthers put five players into protocol — F Sam Bennett, D Aaron Ekblad, D Radko Gudas, F Ryan Lomberg, D Brandon Montour, F Frank Vatrano and F Carter Verhaege. . . . The Kings were without D Drew Doughty after he went into protocol earlier Thursday.


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The virus has made its way to the OHL and the QMJHL.

The OHL’s Owen Sound Attack postponed a pair of weekend games “due to COVID protocols.” It seems that the Attack had one player test positive. . . . The Attack is the third OHL team to be forced to postpone games, after the Erie Otters, who had 13 positives, and Sudbury Wolves (12).

On top of all that, Kingston has been found to have the highest COVID-19 rate in Canada, so the OHL has postponed the Frontenacs’ two weekend games. They were to have entertained the Barrie Colts on Friday and visited the Oshawa Generals on Sunday. . . .

The QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs had a player come up positive. He was placed in isolation, while all other staff and players were tested twice, with all coming back negative. The situation is being closely monitored.


Adrian Dix, B.C.’s minister of health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s health officer, are scheduled to hold a news conference today at 1 p.m. PT. There is speculation that new restrictions could be coming, including a 50 per cent capacity limit to arenas, including NHL and WHL venues. . . . The Vancouver Canucks are scheduled to entertain the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. . . . The Kamloops Blazers and Victoria Royals are at home Friday night, with the Royals, Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants to play home games on Saturday. . . . The Giants also have a home game scheduled for Sunday. . . . After Sunday, the WHL pauses for the Christmas break, not returning until Dec. 27.



If there aren’t any further developments before Sunday, QB Nick Mullens will start for the Cleveland Browns against the Las Vegas Raiders. That’s because Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, who are ahead of him on the depth chart, are two of 20 Browns on the COVID-19 list. Both tested positive. Keenum was added on Thursday. . . .

Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) tweeted Thursday afternoon that “over 125 NFL players have been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list since Monday.” . . . The Los Angeles Rams added nine players on Thursday, including LB Von Miller, raising their total to 25. . . .

All three of the Chicago Bears’ co-ordinators are in COVID-19 protocol. Bill Lazor (offence), Sean Desai (defence) and Chris Tabor (special teams) took part in meetings remotely on Thursday. The Bears, who also have six players on the list, are to play host to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. . . .

The Seattle Seahawks, who got through the 2020 season without even one positive test, had two on Thursday as they put WR Tyler Lockett and RB Alex Collins on the list. . . .

The NFL issued a news release on Thursday, stating that it is upping its defence against COVID-19:

“Effective immediately, all clubs will implement preventative measures that have proven effective: masking regardless of vaccination status, remote or outdoor meetings, eliminating in-person meals, and no outside visitors while on team travel. We will continue to strongly encourage boosters shots as the most effective protection. Finally, and based on expert advice, we will adjust the return-to-participation requirements for those who have recovered from COVID-19. All of these changes are grounded in our data and science-backed approach, with safety our No. 1 goal for the entire NFL community.”


In the world of NCAA men’s basketball, the CBS Sports Classic Saturday game was to have featured the No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes and the No. 21 Kentucky Wildcats from Las Vegas. However, there were some positive tests among the Buckeyes and the game was cancelled. . . .

High school wrestling in Clark County, Wash., is on hold until at least Jan. 3. Micah Rice, the sports editor of The Columbian in Vancouver, Wash., reports that more than 80 COVID cases were traced to four tournaments that were held on Dec. 4. The events involved wrestlers from 13 counties.



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