The start of the 2020-21 season has not been kind to the Philadelphia Flyers. From dealing with a multitude of injuries to inconsistent play on all ends, the Flyers are now battling with a COVID-19 protocol shutdown, as mandated by the National Hockey League. Regardless of their 8-3-2 record, the Flyers are struggling to stay afloat during what could be considered the most unique season in the history of the NHL.
Until this point in the season, COVID-19 has not been a huge issue for the Flyers. Outside of Shayne Gostisbehere testing positive earlier in the season, the Flyers sort of escaped easily until this week. Gostisbhere missed the first six games of the season but has since made a solid return to the lineup.
COVID Spike Across the League
After seeing a spike across the league, with at least five teams or more teams dealing with COVID issues, the NHL has decided to ramp up league protocols. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, who dealt with COVID himself last month, fully understands the risks involved with competing this season and believe the protocols are necessary.
“I think the protocols are appropriate,” Fletcher said. “You can do everything right and still contract COVID. I think we’re all trying to be careful. I think the players recognize how fortunate we are to be back playing, playing games, competing for a Stanley Cup, and earning a paycheck.”
It seems like doing the right thing is what ended up biting the Flyers back. As of Friday evening, a total of seven Flyers were added to the COVID-19 protocol list including Justin Braun, Morgan Frost, Claude Giroux, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Travis Sanheim, and Jake Voracek.
Per league protocol, The Flyers will continue to receive daily COVID-19 tests at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ. Even though the Flyers have seen a spike in COVID numbers among the team over the past week, they hope numbers will soon go down through this troubling situation. Until the numbers start going down, the Flyers will be out of action for at least the next week.
Canceled and Rescheduled Games So Far
Since defeating the Washington Capitals 7-4 on Sunday, the Flyers have not played a single game. The Flyers had four games scheduled for this past week, with matchups against the Capitals, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers all being canceled as per COVID protocol. Earlier in the week, the NHL identified Monday as the Flyers’ appropriate return date for practice, but that could quickly change as more players are put on the COVID list.
The Devils, who have not played a game since Jan. 31, were originally going to play the Flyers on Thursday and Saturday of this past week but had 18 players on Friday’s COVID protocol list. While it is not confirmed, it seems like most of the breakout in the East stems from the Devils. So far there have been a total of 27 games shifted to accommodate new dates for postponed games involving the Buffalo Sabres, Devils, and Flyers, who all currently have players on the COVID protocol list.
The Flyers were slated for an outdoor matchup with the Boston Bruins on Sunday on Feb. 21, but the certainty of the game is up in the air. If the Flyers are not able to get the outbreak under control, it seems like they will be replaced by another team in the East. All signs are pointing towards the New York Rangers as the replacement team for the game.
While the uncertainty surrounding the remainder of the Flyers season is scary, this situation is nothing new in professional sports. The National Basketball Association, National Football League, and Major League Baseball have all dealt with COVID at some point during their seasons, but have made it out on the other side just fine. While it might seem like a huge setback, the NHL is only learning from the experiences of the other leagues. A COVID was more than likely going to happen at some point, but the NHL has responded accordingly.
Bobby Bader is a freelance journalist from Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL) as the team’s media coordinator as the team prepares for its inaugural season. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.