EDMONTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs woke up to the news on Monday that their scheduled game on Thursday against the Calgary Flames was postponed due to six Flames and one training staff member entering COVID-19 protocol in a 24-hour period.
The acceleration of cases around the league, on its own, might be enough to give players a second thought about going to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China in February. But it's the quarantine rules for those games put forth by the Internation Olympic Committee that could be what dissuades most players from taking part.
"You talk about a five-week quarantine, if you've already been over there for a few weeks, that's a really long time," Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said. "That's a long time. That's a really long time."
The IOC said that any confirmed positive COVID-19 case at the Olympic Games must produce two negative tests 24 hours apart. Otherwise, the quarantine period can last from 21 days up to five weeks in accordance with Chinese law.
Tavares, who represented Canada and won gold at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, has been a vocal supporter of NHL participation for 2022. So much, that he subjected himself to ridicule by his teammates when he took part in a photoshoot with Lululemon (the official clothing supplier of Canada's athletes) in October.
According to reports, teams would not be required to pay players who miss time due to COVID-19 and a required quarantine. That has complicated matters for the players, including Tavares, on the decision (if selected) to go.
"I think we all hope to go but clearly I think things are a little bit more uneasy than they were," Tavares said. "There's going to be some hurdles and some challenges currently [where] things stand and the way they present themselves. But yeah, [I'm] probably a little more uneasy, at least speaking for myself, than I was a number of weeks ago or a few months ago."
Tavares' teammate, Auston Matthews, has already been assured a spot for the Games on Team USA and admitted the need for clarity of some matters related to the event.
"I'd love to go and I'd love to compete, but there's definitely a lot of things that I think a lot of us would like to see worked out and just some questions we'd like to see answered."
The vague nature of how long a player would have to quarantine and when they'd be able to come home creates an odd calculation of just how long a player may be away from their NHL team. Should a player test positive on the final day and they could be away from home for roughly eight weeks when everything is done.
"You talk about a five-week quarantine, if you've already been over there for a few weeks, that's a really long time," Tavares said. "That's a long time. That's a really long time."
According to reports, Jan. 10 is the final day for the NHL to withdrawal from Olympics participation without financial penalty. With the omicron variant leading to a rapid increase in positive COVID-19 cases worldwide, there's definitely more for the players to mull over.
The players hope to get answers to some of those questions this week when they jump on a phone call with the NHLPA to see if there is a consensus about how to handle that.
In addition to the Flames, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that Sebastian Aho, Seth Jervis and a staff member entered COVID-19 protocol on Monday. According to DailyFaceoff.com's Frank Seravalli, the number of players entering protocol this season to 17 percent of the league, before the addition of the two Canes players.