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.


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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Washington governor expected to ban large gatherings . . . Would impact two WHL teams . . . Junior B series opener postponed

Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m., at which, according to the Everett Herald, he is expected to “announce a ban on events and social gatherings attended by more than 250 people” as the area continues to battle COVID-19.

It is believed that an initial ban would impact Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

Everett, the home of the WHL’s Silvertips, is the county seat and the largest city in EverettSnohomish County. The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds play out of SeattleKent, Wash., which is located in King County.

It will also affect the MSL’s Seattle Sounders, Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves and XFL’s Seattle Dragons.

The Thunderbirds have three home games remaining — on Saturday (Vancouver), Tuesday (Spokane) and March 21 (Portland).

The Silvertips have one home game remaining, on March 20 against the Victoria Royals.

Later Tuesday, the Silvertips announced the cancellation of the Silvertips Radio Show “until further notice.” It was broadcast live from Sporty’s Beef & Brew, featuring play-by-play voice Mike Benton and appearances by players. Last night’s show was available via the Internet.

On Tuesday, Inslee said the banning of large gatherings, including sporting events, is under consideration.

“I would not be shocked if we have some more news on that in the next few days,” he said. “If we’re going to stop this epidemic, we need to look at what’s coming, not just what’s here today.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the death toll in the state from COVID-19 had reached at least 23, with more than 190 confirmed cases. Inslee said he expects that number to grow rapidly.

On Monday evening, Patty Hayes, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, had displayed a chart that features five levels of actions. Washington state already has moved through Level 2 and, Hayes said, “We are at the ready to institute the third level. Level 3 includes “involuntary isolation of those sick” and “involuntary quarantine of those who have interacted with those sick.”

Hayes added: “We haven’t had to do this because our public has been extremely compliant . . . But the health officer does have the authority to involuntarily isolate or quarantine individuals.”

Level 4 involves ordering the “cancellation of major public and large private gatherings,” which would appear to be where at least three counties now find themselves.

With less than two weeks remaining in its regular season and the playoffs scheduled to open on March 27, the WHL has announced a handful of operational changes in response to COVID-19.

It has ordered the “elimination of handshakes between teammates, opponents and whlofficials,” while also impressing upon teams that players not share water bottles or towels.

The WHL also has asked all teams to “avoid direct contact with fans, including high-fives, handshakes, and autographing of items.”

The WHL’s statement didn’t make mention of whether it has looked at other options, such as playing games in empty arenas or even postponing/cancelling games.

While the Edmonton Oil Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers, for two, have said they will abide by the WHL’s request, Saskatoon radio station CKOM reported that the Blades “aren’t putting limitations on fans.”

The station reported that “Tyler Wawryk, director of business operations with the Blades, told 650 CKOM the team isn’t planning on following the recommendations, and autograph sessions will continue as scheduled.”

In Everett, the Northwest Athletic Conference announced that its men’s and women’s basketball championships are moving from Everett Community College to Clackamas CC in Oregon City, Ore., and Linn-Benton CC in Albany, Ore. . . . The tournaments were to have been played last weekend at Everett CC and, in fact, three women’s games were played on Thursday before the campus was shut down because of coronavirus concerns. A student from Everett CC later tested positive. The campus received a thorough cleaning and reopened on Monday.


Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, the start of a junior B playoff series between the Oceanside Generals and Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has been postponed. The North Division final was to have started Tuesday night in Parksville, but BC Hockey said several Campbell River players are self-isolating with flu-like symptoms. . . . Gerry Bickerton, the Generals’ president, told Nanaimo NewsNOW that his team is healthy. “Hockey-wise it’s frustrating but public safety-wise this has to be done,” Bickerton said. “With what’s happening right now, BC Hockey went and did their questioning and they’ve made their decision.” . . . It is hoped that the series now will begin Saturday in Parksville. . . . Alex Rawnsley’s story is right here. . . . As of Tuesday night, there hadn’t yet been a positive test for coronavirus on Vancouver Island.

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reported via Twitter on Tuesday that the Los Angeles Kings “have banned their scouts from plane travel because of the COVID-19 virus. If they can’t drive to the game, they’re not to go.” . . . Campbell followed that up with: “Buffalo Sabres scouts are still flying, but not to Europe. They’ve also told their scouts that if they feel uncomfortable about flying, they don’t have to fly.”


Some of Tuesday’s other developments . . .

The NBA’s Golden State Warriors played a home game in front of fans on Tuesday night, despite an aggressive recommendation from the City of San Francisco on Friday that all large, non-essential events be cancelled. . . . This isn’t sitting well with city officials. “I have expressed my desire that they do this voluntarily before, in the days ahead, we do it as an emergency public health order,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the online news site Mission Local. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. I hope they come to that conclusion before we make them come to that conclusion.” . . . The Warriors have said that they don’t plan any changes before their next home game, either. That game is scheduled for Thursday. . . .

The NBA will hold a conference call involving team owners on Wednesday afternoon during which they will discuss possible moves. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, each franchise was required to have “several contingency plans in place” by Tuesday, including “an arrangement with an infectious disease specialist, the identifying of a specific facility to test for coronavirus and a plan to limit the number of team and arena staff members that would interact with players.” . . . On Wednesday, the owners are expected to discuss the possibility of playing games in empty arenas. . . .

The Austrian EBEL (Erste Bank Ice Hockey League) cancelled the remainder of its season, with the German DEL quick to follow suit. . . . The EBEL features teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy. A statement from the league stated that “no championship title will be awarded in the 2019-20 season.” . . . The DEL statement read, in part: “The DEL is forced to end the current season. . . . The reason for this is the banning by federal states of events such as DEL games with more than 1,000 spectators. . . . Due to the premature end of the season, there is no German champion this year. As the main round winner, the EHC Red Bull Munich, together with the Adler Mannheim, the Straubing Tigers and the Eisbären Berlin, represent the DEL in the Champions Hockey League (CHL 2020-21).” . . .

Igor Eronko, a Sport-Express hockey writer and KHL-TV commentator, tweeted that “Moscow plans to cancel all the sports events with more than 5,000 spectators. . . . It will definitely affect the KHL playoffs.” . . .

For an in-depth look at postponements, cancellations and more from the hockey world, check out this right here from Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog. There is a whole lot of information here. . . .

The Ivy League shut down all spring football practices, effective Tuesday morning and running through at least April 5. . . .

The Ivy League also cancelled its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that were to have been played this weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The Princeton women and Yale men were awarded the league’s NCAA tournament bids. . . . The Ivy League also made the decision to limit attendance at all sporting events through the end of its spring season. . . .

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference cancelled the rest of its state boys and girls basketball, boys ice hockey and boys swimming tournaments. . . . The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association has also cancelled its playoffs. . . .

Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, has recommended all indoor games be played without spectators. That would include the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who are at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, whose next home game is scheduled for March 24. . . . DeWine tweeted that “for indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents and others essential to the game.” . . . The Blue Jackets later issued a statement, saying that they have been in contact with the NHL and “it has been determined that our scheduled games, including Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticket fans that wish to attend.” . . . The Mid-American Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in downtown Cleveland starting on Thursday, but with a restricted attendance policy. Thus, they won’t be open to the public. . . .

The Big West Conference will play its conference tournaments without fans in the buildings. The men are to play this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim; the women will play at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State. . . .

The Zac Brown Band has postponed a spring tour. . . . BMI, a music rights management company, has postponed its Latin Awards that had been scheduled for Los Angeles on March 31. A new date hasn’t yet been chosen. . . . The Coaches Valley Music and Arts Festival, which was to have run April 10-12 and April 17-19, has been postponed to Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 16-18. It annually draws more than 200,000 people to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. . . . Stagecoach, a country music festival, also has been postponed. It, too, is held at the Empire Polo Club. Originally scheduled for April 24-26, it now is to be held Oct. 23-25.

I have spent the past couple of days cleaning out a filing cabinet. Of course, it never gets done as quickly as it should because, well, there are all of those old stories to read.

Like the one about when the WHL officially stopped referring to 20-year-old players as overage. The decision was made at a board of governors’ meeting in Calgary on April 2, 1985, when it also was decided to allow teams to dress three such players, up from two.

“I’m pleased about the move to three 20-year-olds,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said. “We also decided to eliminate the word ‘overage’. From now on, those players will be referred to as 20-year-olds.”

At the same meeting, the WHL made 12-year-olds ineligible to be placed on teams’ protected lists. Prior to that decision, a 12-year-old took up two spots on a team’s list.

The WHL, at the time, continued to allow the listing of 13- and 14-year-old players without any restrictions.

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