Tuesday's NHL: Quarantine concerns loom over NHL participation in Olympics

Associated Press

NHL MVP Connor McDavid calls the idea of potentially having to quarantine for up to five weeks in China following a positive COVID-19 test “unsettling” as the NHL’s participation at the 2022 Winter Games remains up in the air.

The Edmonton captain and one of three players already named to Canada’s provisional Olympic team spoke Tuesday as coronarivus cases and postponements continue to rise across the league.

“It’s obviously going to be a very fluid situation,” McDavid said before Edmonton hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs. “There hasn’t been a ton of information come out, and then there’s that three-to-five week (quarantine) thing ... it’s kind of been floating around. Obviously, it’s unsettling if that were to be the case when you go over there.”

NHL MVP Connor McDavid calls the idea of potentially having to quarantine for up to five weeks in China following a positive COVID-19 test “unsettling” as the NHL’s participation at the 2022 Winter Games remains up in the air.

The NHL skipped the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, but committed to Beijing as part of the extension to the current collective bargaining agreement signed with NHL Players’ Association. As recently as last week, Commissioner Gary Bettman said the plan was to go, but the NHL has until Jan. 10 to nix the plan without financial penalty if COVID-19 causes enough of a disruption to its season.

“I’m still a guy that’s wanting to go play in the Olympics,” McDavid said, according to The Canadian Press. “But we also want to make sure it’s safe for everybody. For all the athletes, not just for hockey players.”

The International Olympic Committee has said an athlete who tests positive for COVID-19 in China will need to produce two negative results 24 hours apart. If they’re unable to do so, the quarantine period could last from three to five weeks.

Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo — named alongside McDavid and Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby as provisional members of the Canadian squad — said he was not sure if he will be going to China because of the potential of being away from family in a long quarantine. Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner, a Swede, has already said he will not go.

Medical experts for the league and players’ association have a previously scheduled meeting set for later this week to review COVID-19 protocols. All but one NHL player — Tyler Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings — is believed to be fully vaccinated, though the league is currently only recomending booster shots.

Asked if the increase in positive tests and postponements were giving him flashbacks to March 2020 when the sports world and much of society ground to a halt, Calgary general manager Brad Treliving wouldn’t go quite that far.

“I don’t think anything is going to feel like that,” he said. “That was a cold slap (to the face).”

The NHL went to every Olympics from 1998 through 2014 before declining to send its players three years ago. Owners have always been lukewarm on the Olympics for a number of reasons, including the disruption to the league calendar.

Stars' Bishop finally gives in to ailing knee, ends career

Ben Bishop's 2½-year saga with an ailing right knee is ending with the Dallas Stars goalie believing he did everything possible to get his career going again.

He is still not quite at peace with the fact that he couldn't.

Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishops wipes tears as he speaks during a news conference announcing his retirement as an NHL hockey player because of a degenerative condition in his right knee in Dallas, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

Bishop confirmed Tuesday what Stars general manager Jim Nill said three days earlier: The 35-year-old's playing days are done because of a degenerative issue in the knee.

“I guess one of the hard things is, I get out there and I still feel pretty good in some of the practices and you still feel like you have the skill to play in this league,” said Bishop, whose last NHL game was in the 2020 playoff bubble in Canada 15 months ago. “But then when your knee tells you you can’t, it’s tough.”

It's not officially a retirement because Bishop is. under contract through next season and will still be around the team. But the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist won't be in net again after last week's one-game rehab attempt with the AHL's Texas Stars yielded eight goals and even worse news afterward. The knee was swollen again.

Wild's Guerin promoted to take over as US men's Olympic GM

Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin was promoted to take over the men's U.S. Olympic hockey team on Tuesday, two months after Stan Bowman’s resignation in the wake of the Chicago Blackhawks’ sexual assault scandal.

“Unfortunately, things turned out the way they did and we’re here today,” Guerin said during a USA Hockey Zoom conference call.

“But you know, we have a job to do and we have to remain focused and steadfast on that,” he said. “It’s been a bumpy road getting here, but we’re here and we have to focus on the task at hand.”

Initially named the U.S. team’s assistant GM, Guerin replaces Bowman, who resigned in October after an investigation determined Blackhawks’ officials mishandled a player's allegations against an assistant coach during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010. Bowman was the Blackhawks GM.

Guerin’s promotion comes less than two months before the Beijing Winter Games open in February. He New York Rangers GM Chris Drury, the team’s assistant general manager, have only about a month to select a team and perhaps a backup team, given the uncertainty as to whether NHL players opt out from participation due to COVID-19 protocols.

Guerin is placing his emphasis on NHL participation.

“There are a lot of moving parts that still have to be discussed and hopefully answers so that everybody can feel the best about sending the best players to the Olympics from the NHL,” he said.

USA Hockey executive John Vanbiesbrouck said Plan B — minus NHL participation — would involve drawing upon a pool of players currently competing in the minor leagues, colleges and Europe. That’s similar to what USA Hockey did in 2018, when the NHL opted out from participating in the South Korea Games.

However, Vanbiesbrouck added, “We are focused, as Bill said, on Plan A. And hopefully we get there.”

Guerin’s promotion was delayed because of his potential ties to a lawsuit involving his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. T he Penguins recently settled a lawsuit alleging a former minor-league coach molested the wife of one of his assistants in 2018.

Guerin was one of the Penguins assistant GMs at the time and responsible for overseeing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team. The lawsuit alleged Guerin asked the assistant to keep the reason for Donatelli’s termination quiet, and that the team punished the assistant for reporting the assault and later terminated his position under the guise of pandemic-related staff cuts.

Guerin denies his role in the allegations.

Looking ahead, Guerin said he is working off a 55-player list of NHL players, and declined to rule out the possibility of selecting Jack Eichel, who is recovering from artificial disk replacement surgery.

“I won’t rule out anybody,” Guerin said, without revealing the conversations he’s had with Eichel’s agent.

Sidelined since March, the former Buffalo Sabres captain had surgery last month after being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights. Eichel's timeline for recovery was placed at three months.

Guerin is from Worcester, Massachusetts, and was a three-time Olympian. Drury is from Trumbull, Connecticut, and was teammates with Guerin while the two competed at the Winter Games in 2002 and 2006.