The Bruins and the NHL could be facing a lot of obstacles to get through the 2021 season.
If there was one thing that 2020 taught us, if anything, is to expect the unexpected. It appears that when all is said and done, we might be saying the same thing about the 2021 and the upcoming NHL season.
Last summer, following the season pause on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic that went worldwide, the NHL was able to successfully pull off a Return to Play with two bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. In a span of two months, the league pulled off a best-of-five Qualifying Round and four rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs without a single positive COVID-19 result.
It was pretty remarkable and the NHL, referees, and teams should be lauded for their efforts.
With the NHL regular-season set to begin Wednesday night and the Boston Bruins are scheduled to drop the puck on a new season Thursday night at the New Jersey Devils. The NHL and some of their teams have already seen how difficult it will be to pull off the 2021 season and they are finding out with traveling yet.
On Friday, the Dallas Stars released a statement on Twitter that they had six players test positive, along with two staff members. Due to the positive cases, the Stars will delay the beginning of their season, which was scheduled for Thursday night in Miami, Florida against the Panthers. The earliest they will start their schedule is Jan. 19 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On Friday, 19 of the 40 players on the Columbus Blue Jackets training camp roster were absent due to COVID-19 protocols and then the Pittsburgh Penguins canceled practice on Saturday due to COVID concerns.
As far as the Bruins go, just like every other team, it will be more important since they are not in a bubble that they become aware of who they are in contact with, especially away from the rink. Last season, the NHL pulled off the Return to Play in a bubble without a problem and one thing the NHL will find out this season, pulling off a season during a pandemic outside of a bubble will have its obstacles. A 10-14 day quarantine would cause a player to miss a fair amount of games in the condensed season.
Practice will be canceled. Games will be canceled and have to be rescheduled. Every team will go through coronavirus issues at some point this season, which is why once the season begins, the NHL is going with a taxi squad for each team. The NHL was certainly done their work to put protocols in place so the season can be completed, but as we found out in 2020, nothing is easy.
Expect the unexpected in 2021.