Leading Fully Vaccinated NHL Team Suffers Sudden 27-Person COVID Outbreak Over 3 Days

By Neil Campbell | December 16, 2021
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
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The Calgary Flames have suffered a 27-person COVID outbreak hitting all star players and Head Coach Darryl Sutter over the last three days
Sebastian Aho #20 of the Carolina Hurricanes scores the game-winning goal against Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Calgary Flames during the overtime period of an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 9, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames have suffered a sudden 27-person COVID-19 outbreak over the course of three days, resulting in their schedule being postponed until at least Dec. 21. (Image: Derek Leung/Getty Images)

A leading National Hockey League (NHL) team has been forced to further postpone its schedule after 17 additional players and staff members were added to the league’s COVID Protocol on Dec. 15, bringing the total to 27 in an outbreak that started only two days earlier.

On Dec. 13, the Calgary Flames (15-7-6) announced they were forced to postpone a number of games after six players, including star forward Elias Lindholm, tested positive for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

General Manager Brad Treliving told the media all six players were asymptomatic.

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The postponed games were against the Chicago Blackhawks the same day, the Nashville Predators on Dec. 14, and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 16.

The NHL also shuttered the team’s training facilities as an additional measure.

A same-day article by the Calgary Sun clarified that three players had tested positive for COVID on Dec. 12. That number had evidently grown to six, and then seven as further team testing was underway.

Treliving stated in regard to the avalanche of positive tests, “This one, we went from nothing on Saturday to seven on Sunday” during comments referring to how the NHL decided to postpone the club’s schedule. 

The Sun stated that a concern for the team was not as much having to play shorthanded, but if a player tested positive while in the United States, they would be subject to Canada’s draconian hotel quarantine upon a return crossing of the border.

The Flames, currently ranked second place in the Pacific Division and now with three games in hand behind the Anaheim Ducks (17-9-5), scored three more positive PCR tests on Dec. 14 as star forward Sean Monahan was joined by Noah Hanifin and Milan Lucic in the League’s COVID protocol.

But when things really took a turn for the worse was the next day on Dec. 15, when 17 more confirmed cases struck, including goaltender Jacob Markstrom, leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau, and head coach Darryl Sutter.

A Dec. 15 article by the Sun stated, “Put another way, there are only seven skaters on the Flames’ active roster who have not tested positive over the past 96 hours.”

The article noted of the 27 cases, three were among the team’s coaches and 7 were among support staffers. 

The Sun compared the Flames new-found infamy to an outbreak suffered by rival Vancouver Canucks last season when more than 20 players tested positive for COVID, “The big difference between what’s happening in Calgary and the outbreak in Vancouver during the 2020-21 campaign is that the Canucks’ players, because of availability/roll-out up to that point, had yet to be vaccinated.”

“A lot has changed since then, not only in the hockey world but period. The Flames are fully-vaxxed — as Lucic pointed out in a post on Twitter, some have already received a booster — and that will help to reduce the risk of severe illness.”

The author added, that “around the entire league, it’s believed there is only one remaining skater who has opted against getting the jab.”

“While the Canucks were dealing last spring with the Gamma variant, the Flames have been awaiting further results to determine if they have been hit by Omicron, the latest strain,” the article stated.

The League’s COVID-19 Protocol is, like the NBA and the NFL’s, significantly punishing and discriminatory against the unvaccinated. In one example, 50 percent of the costs of testing, quarantine, and single room hotel accommodations “shall be treated as Player Benefits and charged against the Players’ Share.”

Unvaccinated players can also be subjected to a 7-to-14-day quarantine at the discretion of the team doctor if they have “travelled from a high-risk environment or has engaged in behavior that subjected him to a substantially higher risk of infection than pertains to other Players of the Club.”

The NHL states this type of quarantine would amount to 24-hour lockdown, “The Unvaccinated Player subject to such quarantine shall not be permitted to leave his home or hotel room for any purpose, including, if at a hotel, to use common facilities such as the hotel gym, bar or restaurants.” 

“No visitors shall be permitted, and all meals and medications must be delivered to the individual’s home or hotel in a contactless manner.”

Additionally, the unvaccinated are required to wear a mask “at all times when with the team or in team spaces,” except for when working out, playing, or eating. The clause states the unvaccinated would have to be masked for the duration of flights and bus trips, and also cannot share taxis or Ubers with the vaccinated.

The unvaccinated are also subject to daily laboratory PCR testing, which they are also billed 50 percent the cost of.

The NHL has postponed the Flames schedule until at least Dec. 21.