After mass postponements due to COVID outbreaks across the league, the NHL announced that it would shut down its schedule following Tuesday night’s games in an attempt to quell the virus’ grip upon the league.
Players will report back to their teams on Dec. 26, which will be a day of COVID testing, practice, and/or travel only. They will not be permitted inside team facilities until they produce a negative COVID test — which is why practices must start after 2 p.m. local time, only.
It gives the teams and players one day to prepare before the regular-season schedule resumes on Dec. 27.
The Islanders, who have currently have three players in protocol (Mathew Barzal, Matt Martin, Robin Salo) were one of the lesser-effected teams that were currently dealing with the virus. Granted, they’ve had 11 total players test positive at some point during the season, including a staggering eight at one time last month.
In total, the NHL had suspended 44 games amid the latest COVID surge that featured 10 of the league’s 32 teams’ schedules having been paused with facilities also being closed.
The restart will be a difficult one as players impacted by the virus will try to find their legs while their teams adjust — which is something Trotz now has plenty of experience with given the Islanders’ outbreak earlier this season.
“There’s no data. This is all visual or whatever. Every situation is different,” Trotz said. “What I’ve noticed around the league, in our case, is where we got hit the hardest was our defenseman (the Islanders lost four of their six starting defensemen).
“From a standpoint of competitiveness, having your D-core and goaltenders [is better]… You can win games with lesser quality forwards. It’s hard to do it without the [defense]. With guys coming back, it throws a little bit of the rhythm off.”
One of those defensemen in veteran Andy Greene admitted he did not have “any issues really” when he tested positive for the virus.
“It was kind of more get back in the swing of things,” Greene said. “And it was like coming off a bye week or All-Star break.”
This has been the worst outbreak upon the North American sports scene since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020 and the first time the schedule has been halted in-season since then.
It’s another sizable hurdle for NHLers and the Islanders to clear, but Trotz is preaching a collective approach to get through another trying time.
“You have to lean on each other,” he said. “I talk about, in our sport, mental toughness but everyone handles it differently. We just deal with the day, deal with what we can do today. Not thinking about next week, two weeks from now.
That’s my message. Let’s lean on each other because we don’t know where everybody is mentally. Physically, we’re in pretty good shape. It’s the computer on your shoulders that runs everything. Some guys are probably dealing with it a lot better than other guys. You don’t know how family members are dealing with it, you don’t know how your friends are dealing with it… This group, I know them quite well. They’re good men, great men.”