The news just keeps getting worse for the Boston Bruins, and the NHL in general.

On a day when Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron entered COVID-19 protocol as coronavirus cases and game postponements continued to climb, the NHL announced it is reintroducing enhanced protocols that include restricting players to staying in their hotels while on the road in a bid to limit outbreaks among players and staff.

The enhanced protocols went into effect immediately and will last through at least Jan. 7, a person with direct knowledge of discussions between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

Daily testing will return for players and coaches as part of the decision, which was reached Wednesday after two days of meetings and worsening conditions across the league, as players and staff from three more teams were added to the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.

That included 17 members of the Calgary Flames, who had a fourth game postponed (Saturday’s home matchup against Columbus). Coach Darryl Sutter and two assistants are on the list, along with players including Rasmus Andersson, Johnny Gaudreau and others.

Also on Wednesday, Ontario put a limit on stadium capacity for the Maple Leafs, Senators and the NBA’s Raptors at 50% – starting Saturday – because of the COVID-19 surge.


More than 140 NHL players have been on the protocol list this season – including more than two dozen in the last two days – in a league that has proudly noted all but one of its approximately 700 players are considered fully vaccinnated. It is a discouraging trend for the league, which plans to allow its players to participate in the Winter Olympics in China in February unless COVID-19 disruptions prove to be too much.

Boston’s Bergeron entered COVID protocol on Wednesday – a day after teammates Brad Marchand and Craig Smith – with the team heading off to Long Island, Montreal and Ottawa for three games. As of now, it’s full steam ahead on the trip, though the team has discussed one change in plans. Coach Bruce Cassidy said the team could be staying overnight in New York on Thursday and traveling to Montreal on Friday to lessen the time spent in Canada. If a member of the club’s traveling party tests positive in Canada, they would be stuck there for a 14-day quarantine.

Marchand and Smith appear to be asymptomatic, according to Taylor Hall, who said both players were feeling fine after the Bruins’ loss to Vegas on Tuesday. There was no word on Bergeron’s condition yet, but you could see how losing your top players for a critical stretch before the holiday break – not to mention the looming talk of a shutdown – would eat away at the team’s focus.

Coach Bruce Cassidy said it’s just something they have to fight through.

“This is their job. They’ve got to be prepared to go to work,” said Cassidy, who just came out of the protocol himself on Monday.

The current situation should give some players a chance to establish traction. Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen were called up to go on the trip. Studnicka, a center for whom the Bruins had high hopes, in particular could benefit from some consistent playing time. His play has been “uneven” in Providence, but he had a strong training camp.

“To have some young legs come in when you’re lacking that bit of juice is not a bad thing,” said Cassidy. “They’ve just got to be ready to play.”

For better or worse, opportunity is knocking.

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