COVID an issue for NHL, bettors

December 14, 2021 06:26 PM

The NHL has a COVID-19 problem.

On Monday, the Flames canceled their trip to Chicago due to several positive cases. Soon after, their season was put on hold through at least Thursday.

The league’s deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, recently said that case numbers are higher than expected, and Tuesday that became apparent to the entire hockey community as a slew of players around the league were placed in COVID-19 protocol.

As we’ve seen with the Islanders, the virus can turn a bad situation into a worse one. But for a contending team such as the Flames, an outbreak could be a momentum killer.

Devon Toews of the Avalanche, Mathew Barzal of the Islanders, Ryan Lomberg of the Panthers, Craig Smith of the Bruins and three more members of the Flames — Sean Monahan, Milan Lucic and Noah Hanifin — were placed on the COVID list Tuesday. Brad Marchand, who was on the ice for a morning skate with the Bruins, was added to the list soon after. The Hurricanes placed forwards Seth Jarvis and Sebastian Aho in COVID protocol, and then four more members of the team joined them.

The Hurricanes’ game against the Wild was subsequently postponed. Other teams were impacted by the virus on Tuesday too. The Canucks had to cancel their practice and the Oilers had to retest all of their players and coaches.

With the holidays approaching and the Olympics on the horizon, the NHL will have some decisions to make in the coming weeks. What restrictions will they put in place?

Well, if the league has any hope of finishing the season on time, it will have to take proactive measures. It’s fair to say that Olympic participation is looking like a non-starter. Players might want to go to the Olympics, but at the end of the day, the International Ice Hockey Federation isn’t the organization signing their paychecks.

The situation can create some positive expected value for bettors who approach the market with caution and react to news, but it’ll be hard to feel safe in any game until the puck is dropped. I usually like to jump on early-morning lines, but I’m going to do so with a lot more hesitation these days. Any word of an illness and my guard will go up.


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