It feels like a long time ago now, but there was a time not too long ago where there were no sports on your television when you logged off the computer after a hard day of virtual work. Since then, things have changed and have started to go back to normal, or at least close to normal. You are now possibly back in the office, you can go into restaurants or take in a movie at the theatre, and you can come home and watch your favourite hockey team play.
Sports have acted as an escape from the grim reality of the pandemic for many, and at times, it seems like it’s an impenetrable bubble that couldn’t possibly be brought down, but then you can get a hard hit of reality. That reality has come through for the Ottawa Senators, who have been battling hard against a COVID-19 outbreak, and after playing numerous games with nearly an American Hockey League roster, the NHL has done them a favour and postponed their next three games.
Senators Need Time to Get Healthy
As with any other injury, time heals all wounds. When a player breaks his leg or needs shoulder surgery, they need time to recover and come back healthy. There’s one key difference for the Senators right now, and it’s the transmissibility of COVID-19. As we know, you can’t spread a broken leg or the need for shoulder surgery, but you sure as hell can spread COVID-19, even if you are vaccinated.
There won’t be a deep dive into the political side of the vaccine or COVID-19 in here, but it is a fact that the vaccine reduces transmission, even if it’s not perfect. It can be spread, and that’s what is currently happening in the Senators locker room. For the past week, the Sens have seen 10 players in total go on their COVID list and become unavailable, including Drake Batherson and Nikita Zaitsev, who have gone on the list, been cleared to come off, and then put right back on it.
The Senators have been left unable to practice due to concerns about spreading COVID-19 in the locker room. Following that logic, you would assume that games would also have been postponed, but that wasn’t the case. Critics would say that this move comes too late from the NHL, others would say it should have never come at all, but the league made the right choice in the end.
Getting away from the rink will give the Senators and their players a chance to get healthy and reduce the risk of spreading COVID around the locker room. It’s still possible that there will be more positive tests, as it can take a few days for tests to come back positive, but the situation should be much improved by the time their games are re-scheduled.
Players Are Humans, Not Robots
It’s sometimes easy to forget that the players on the ice are human beings and not robots. There’s no question that the people walking into the locker room on a day-to-day basis are thinking about the possibility of being the next to come down with COVID. You also have to consider the consequences of that. These players go home to their families, some have children, some might even live with their elderly parents, and going home knowing you have been in contact with a positive case in the past two days could be scary.
“You’re almost crossing your fingers every single day hoping that you get through with a negative (test),” said Michael Del Zotto. “It is a learning experience, with the different tests we’re doing, and trying to keep everyone safe, not just the players but their families and staff as well. It’s a great opportunity for guys to learn the mental side of the game.”
“Every day there’s something unexpected,” Senators captain Brady Tkachuk says. “So, of course, it kind of wears on you mentally.”
There have been many instances about players’ well-being not being taken seriously enough by the league, including the situation with Kyle Beach and the Chicago Blackhawks, mental health issues, and addiction to painkillers that have seriously changed the lives of the people impacted by it.
Yes, there have been testing inconsistencies and false positives, but the situation has gotten out of control. The emotional toll on the players and coaching staff was likely pretty heavy. And giving them some time off is not only good for the competitiveness of games, but also for the mental state of the humans that put on the uniform every single night.
NHLers at Olympics Possibly in Danger Should This Continue
While it was the right move for the league to postpone the Senators’ next three games, there might be some unintended consequences, especially if COVID forces more games to get postponed around the league. As reported by Pierre LeBrun shortly after the announcement came down, the NHL and the NHLPA have until January 10th to opt-out of Olympic participation. If the problem remains with only the Senators, there should be a workaround available for the league, but if it does continue to grow, it’s a possibility that the NHL and NHLPA would opt-out, according to LeBrun.
The last thing that many fans want to hear is that there might not be NHL players at the Olympics. Fans have been dreaming of seeing Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid play together, seeing what Team Finland has to offer, or if someone can finally take down the Canadians, who have won the last two gold medals when NHL players participated.
For the time being, things around the league look to be calm enough, but we will have to wait and see what happens with the teams who played the Senators during their outbreak. Hopefully, we won’t see any tests come back positive, and if we do, hopefully it’s contained and not serious. The health of the players and staff should be everyone’s first concern, of course, but everyone is hoping to see NHL players participate in Beijing safely this winter.
What’s Next for the Senators?
The Senators will be off the ice until at least Saturday or Sunday and are currently expected to return to play against the Colorado Avalance on Nov. 22. The postponed games against the New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators, and the New York Rangers are yet to be rescheduled, and when the league will announce that is still unknown. The focus is now to get players healthy, and all you can do is hope that no one has any serious symptoms and everyone will come out on the other side safely.
Currently a journalism student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, I have always had a passion for the OHL and the Ottawa 67’s in particular. I have been attending games since I was young, and being involved with sports has always been a dream of mine. Sports writing fits perfectly into that. You can also find me talking and writing other sports (primarily Canadian football) on my website 13thmansports.ca!