In the end, the San Jose Sharks are proud of how they handled their COVID outbreak — they went 3-2-1 missing as many as seven regulars and four top-six defensemen a night — but the question remains, why did they have to play on?
It’s a question that many San Jose Sharks fans have asked with the Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, and today, the Carolina Hurricanes, among others, having games postponed because of multiple players on COVID protocol.
Again, it's astonishing that the @SanJoseSharks had their coach, three forwards and four defensemen in the COVID protocol and the NHL was like "welp…"
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) December 13, 2021
“Other than maybe we were the first team to go through it and there was really no protocol set out with how they were gonna adjust the schedule? I think they wanted to try and not have too many re-dos,” head coach Bob Boughner told San Jose Hockey Now two weeks ago. “I think as more teams got it, they were stuck in what they could do and couldn’t do.”
Boughner added today: “You look around the league, it gets a little scary now thinking about it. We felt like the guinea pigs to how the league handled it this year.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly further explained the league’s position today.
He told the Mercury News, using the Senators’ postponements as an example, that the “number of positive players was higher and evidence of continued spread among team members became apparent. Wasn’t the case in the San Jose situation.”
Daly confirmed that account to San Jose Hockey Now in a text, noting, “The assessment of risk of continued transmission or spread is a very important factor. Certainly [was] one of the factors relied on in making the decision.”
Essentially, the league felt that the San Jose situation wasn’t going to get much worse, and as Daly told the Mercury News on Nov. 2, the San Jose Sharks had the manpower available and the ability to be cap-compliant even with a Legion of Substitute Sharks. That’s not the case, for example, with the Hurricanes today.
Daly added: “There are so many factors involved in every decision that it’s tough to isolate one factor over any others. At the end of the day, no two situations are exactly the same.”
That said, the San Jose Sharks players certainly noticed when other teams were getting games postponed, as opposed to their situation.
“When we were going to New York, had a few conversations with the Players Association,” Sharks captain Logan Couture shared. “Told them we wouldn’t be too happy if the Islanders game was postponed because of what we had to go through, play without four defensemen in our line-up.”
The Sharks were the Islanders’ first contest after New York had two games postponed at the end of November. San Jose won 2-1 in overtime on Dec. 2 at UBS Arena.
“Definitely proud of how we handled it,” Couture said, before stressing, “Obviously, every situation is different. The Canadian teams probably have issues with crossing borders and all that. Some of those instances, I think it makes sense.”
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