NHL increases simplification measures – Newspaper Kommersant No. 237 (7199) of 12/28/2021

The National Hockey League, which has already withdrawn from the Beijing Olympics due to persistent coronavirus outbreaks, continues to seek a way out of the pandemic crisis. To this end, she made a number of changes to the regulations that simplify the collection of club applications. At the moment, few teams can assemble at least similar to the combat composition due to the huge number of positive tests, which have already disrupted about seven dozen matches of the regular season of the NHL.

The NHL announced another batch of changes in the regulations. The previous one was implemented at the beginning of December in connection with a new outbreak of the coronavirus, which affected all North American sports leagues, and for hockey turned into a very painful blow, and consisted, first of all, in tightening anticonvirus control by, for example, increasing the number of tests. Now the focus has shifted. The NHL, which last week refused to participate in the February Olympics in Beijing, fearing that the break made for it will finally disrupt the regular championship calendar, which is so seriously battered by the pandemic, on the contrary, decided to make life a little easier for the clubs.

To this end, the league revived the so-called taxi squad, which were used in the last, shortened season. We are talking about groups of up to six players who, for up to 20 days, are actually removed from the salary cap set at $ 81.5 million, equating to representatives of the lower divisions. In addition, the NHL has significantly simplified the rules for calling hockey players from the American Hockey League, where the “subsidiary” teams of its clubs play. First of all, simplification is relevant for situations when the minimum number of available (that is, not injured and not quarantined) players is not recruited in the club application. There must be at least 18 outfield: six defenders and 12 forwards.

The adjustments will help the managers of the clubs recruit squads battered by the pandemic, not paying attention to the correspondence of the amount of contracts of hockey players to the ceiling and other nuances that sometimes interfere with promptly making replacements in the squad. And recent events made them relevant.

The NHL hoped that the long Christmas break it envisioned this year, which began last Wednesday and officially ended on Sunday, would make it possible to a large extent to stop the problems that had arisen. But the calculation did not come true. Sunday’s test results were disastrous. As a result, a total of more than 20 players and coaches were sent to quarantine. Among the sent there are many key characters for their teams. For example, the current Stanley Cup winner Tampa Bay Lightning lost a whole group of hockey players, including the Russians – goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevsky and Mikhail Sergachev. Thus, over a hundred players continue to be in self-isolation at the moment.

Tests prevented the NHL from restarting the regular season in time. She was forced to cancel all 14 matches scheduled for Monday, plus a few more meetings scheduled for the coming days. These are games between Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as Boston Bruins and Ottawa. Their participants have a staff deficit so great that fresh indulgences in the regulations will not help fill it.

Already 67 regular season matches have been postponed. And it’s clear that the number will continue to climb, given the scale of staffing constraints facing at least a quarter of the 32 clubs in the league, and other factors that make life difficult for the NHL, such as the need to constantly cross the Canadian-American border. Meanwhile, while the representatives of the league still remain restrained optimism about the prospects for ending the season at the originally designated date without a radical reversal of the calendar. For example, New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamorello, one of the most experienced hockey functionaries, said that, in his view, what is happening now “indicates that we will play rather than not.”

Alexey Dospekhov

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