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NHL to pause season through Christmas break over COVID-19 outbreaks

NHL to pause season through Christmas break over COVID-19 outbreaks
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, shown Jan. 9, 2013, and the NHL Players Association agreed to halt the season Wednesday due to ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks across the league. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The NHL will temporarily halt its season Wednesday, just two days before a planned Christmas break, because of ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks across the league.

In a statement released Monday night, the NHL said all team facilities will be closed from Dec. 22-25 as the league attempts to combat multiple outbreaks. Players are set to report back to team facilities Dec. 26 and resume daily COVID-19 testing.

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The 2021-22 schedule is set to resume Dec. 27 after players report.

There are just three games left on the NHL schedule before the brief pause: Monday's contest between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild, Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers and Tuesday's game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights.

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The joint decision to pause the season marks the latest setback for the NHL, as 11 clubs have suspended operations and the league postponed all games through Christmas that involved cross-border travel between the U.S. and Canada. As of Monday night, more than 15% of the NHL's players were in the COVID-19 protocol.

Including games that were impacted by the pause beginning Wednesday, 49 matchups have been postponed this season due to the coronavirus.

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Because of the league's COVID-19 issues, the NHL reinstituted stricter protocols this week for players, including daily testing, social distancing guidelines and limitations on where players can go.

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Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi is the only player who isn't vaccinated in the NHL. The league and the players' union have recommended the vaccine booster to players, but the sides don't have plans to mandate it this year.

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