In this edition of Dallas Stars’ News & Rumors, COVID-19 issues lead to a leaguewide shutdown & a scary moment for Tanner Kero.
COVID-19 Shutdown Affects Stars Schedule
As much as we tried to avoid it and hoped it would not happen, COVID-19 has reared its ugly head once again this season. After the past week saw 39 games postponed, including any cross-border travel, and countless players added to the COVID protocol list, the NHL decided to shut down the league from Dec 22-25, with the first games being played on Dec 27.
While it is unknown what effect this will have, the NHL has repeatedly stated that they will try to avoid a full shutdown, similar to what we saw in March 2020, at all costs. Along with this announcement came the expected news that NHL players will not travel to take part in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
For Dallas, this means that last night’s victory over the Minnesota Wild will serve as their final game until Dec 27. The Stars were originally scheduled to take on the Winnipeg Jets at home on Wednesday night and travel to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. With the NHL no longer partaking in the Olympics, they will use that break in February to play all postponed games from the first half of the season. Originally, the Stars were set to play only four games over the entire month.
The hope for the Stars, the league, and the entire world is that we find a way to improve our current situation. If this break can lead to a large chunk of players recovering and testing negative, it is possible that the outbreak can be slowed, allowing the NHL to play the remainder of their season with minimal interruption. That is, however, simply a hope as we adapt to this ever-changing world of COVID-19.
Tanner Kero Hospitalized From Hit
Within minutes of the puck dropping in the Stars matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, the entire arena was brought to silence. On the ice, the Stars were trying to break the puck out of their own zone when Tanner Kero was hit hard by Brett Connolly, knocking him to the ice, where he remained without moving for several minutes. After what felt like hours of holding your breath, Kero was stretchered off the ice at American Airlines Center as the crowd, his teammates, and the Blackhawks cheered, hoping that he would be okay.
“It’s very upsetting to see any player laying on the ice like that,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “It gets emotional because they’re part of your family, and you see them injured. It’s very difficult. I saw him moving his feet and arms, so that was good, gave him a little tap when he left the ice, and then we got good news right away that he was responsive. But yeah, that’s hard for all the players on both sides.
The good news came soon after when the Stars staff was told that Kero was alert and responsive on his way to a local hospital. In the end, he was released the following day and is resting at home while he goes through the NHL concussion protocol. The hope remains that he can make a speedy recovery and faces zero long-term effects from what was a horrifying incident on the ice.
The hit resulted in a major penalty, game misconduct, and eventually led to a four-game suspension for Connolly. The incident affected everyone in the building but perhaps no one more than Stars forward, Joe Pavelski. In the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Pavelski faced a similar situation when he was cross-checked on a face-off against the Vegas Golden Knights. His emotion was clear as he fought back tears when speaking to the media following the game on Saturday.
Pavelski took matters into his own hands following the hit on Kero, scoring two goals on the ensuing five-minute power play, two of his four points on the night as he led the Stars to a 4-3 overtime win. The game, however, was a clear second to the health of Tanner Kero, who looks to be on his way to a full recovery.
The Stars will now head into the holiday break on a two-game winning streak. They will return for practice on Dec 26 and play their first game on Dec. 27 against the Nashville Predators on home ice.
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!