By Ryan Brush
With the first quarter of the 2021 NHL season completed, a lot of positive things emerge. First of all, although the concept of traveling and playing games was heavily questioned in the leadup to the season, it is clear that the protocols and mandates that the NHL put forward are very effective and allow the season to happen normally, with the exception of full crowds. When the 2021 NHL season was announced, the NHL also divided all 31 teams into four divisions sorted by region that would eliminate the bubble that occurred during the 2020 playoffs. This eliminates cross-country travel and long road trips, both high possibilities for infections. This, along with the limited or no fan attendance, permitted the season to commence and progress as usual. However, along with all of these positives, a slew of negatives follow as well. Just one COVID-19 case within any part of the organization, from the players, to the trainers, to the coaches, to the equipment managers, or the rink staff, can cause a complete shutdown of the team for 14 days, delaying at least six or seven games in that time period. And in a 56-game season where already 5 teams have been shut down, the biggest question that casts a shadow over the season is whether or not all of these games will fit into the schedule, especially if (or more realistically, when) more teams get shut down. To combat this, NHL released statements about the new protocols regarding the spread of COVID within teams internally. These protocols included stricter mask rules and the requirement for more protective masks in hopes of continuing the season as usual. In the meantime, all hockey fans can do is watch and hope for the best and follow their favorite team in their quest for the Stanley Cup.