BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Effective Tuesday night, the NHL is taking a "pause" until next week as COVID-19 cases around the league continue to rise. The Buffalo Sabres, who were supposed to practice one last time on Tuesday afternoon, canceled practice for the health and safety of its organization.
"It's the reality of the world we're living in right now," General Manager Kevyn Adams told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "Everything we're doing is trying to make sure our players are safe and healthy. It's why we canceled practice. We wanted to do the right thing."
The Buffalo Sabres are one of the teams impacted by the latest COVID-19 surge around the league. On Monday, Vinnie Hinostroza entered the NHL's COVID-19 protocols and a day later, forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Jeff Skinner joined him. Girgensons is experiencing symptoms while Hinostroza and Skinner are asymptomatic as of now.
The Rochester Americans also had a positive case come up on Tuesday.
"No two cases are the same it seems. Unfortunately, we've been dealing with this all the way back to last year but as an organization, we're following the rules and are constantly on top of these things," Adams said. "You do have concerns and you do have concerns about the guys and the staff. We're hoping if there are positive cases and they are asymptomatic and feel okay, they can test out. But that's not always the case."
The Sabres are one of the organizations that had been fully vaccinated very early on, reporting a full vaccination rate among players and staff at the start of training camp. But despite being fully vaccinated, players are testing positive and some are experiencing symptoms. As of now, the NHL schedule is set to resume on the 27th and Adams hasn't heard anything otherwise.
"What I have learned is you adjust to what you have to adjust to. You focus on what you can control," Adams said about the current situation. "We'll have this break, we hope everyone will come back healthy and re-energized, and we can get back to work on the 26th."
And the current rise in COVID-19 cases may not just impact the current NHL schedule as many Olympic hopefuls are hoping to represent their respective countries at the upcoming Winter Games. The NHL hasn't made a decision yet as to whether players will be able to participate. That decision could impact guys like Girgensons, who was named as a member of the Latvia roster back in October, and Rasmus Dahlin, who will more than likely be chosen to represent Sweden.
"You sympathize with the players if it's not happening and they don't get that experience. I had a conversation with Alex Tuch about what it means to put that jersey on and how special it is," Adams said. "You hope that if it's not now, there will be other opportunities down the road."
As for the current season, the Sabres are scheduled to play again on December 27th when they host the New York Islanders.