The New York Islanders have three players in COVID protocol, but general manager Lou Lamoriello isn’t expecting any impact on Saturday’s home opener at UBS Arena.
The Islanders GM told reporters that there hadn’t been any discussion of canceling the game against the Calgary Flames. News that Anders Lee and Ross Johnston had entered COVID protocol came on the same day that dignitaries and elected officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the New York Islanders new $1.1 billion home.
“I do not foresee that unless there is an epidemic that we’re not aware of,” Lamoriello said when asked about the possibility of Saturday’s game being canceled. “We practiced today and everyone else is healthy. We all tested first thing this morning and we will not have results of that until later this afternoon, but there is no intention to cancel or postpone at this point.”
The NHL has already been dealing with one COVID-19 outbreak among players and staff of the Ottawa Senators. In that instance, 10 players and one coach have tested positive and the league has had to cancel three games Ottawa had been scheduled to play.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had been on hand for Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at UBS Arena and didn’t express concern over Saturday’s game either
“We’re constantly monitoring what has to go on throughout the league,” he told Newsday. “Listen, we have to all deal with COVID. We’re not done yet, and the Delta Variant (withstanding) vaccinations has continued to make this challenging, but we rely on the medical experts to do what is the medically appropriate and safe thing to do.”
“We’re constantly testing … We just deal with the realities, day-to-day, of what we’re dealing with. As far as I know, right now, we’re playing (Saturday) night.”
The league office is surely hoping to avoid any disruption to the New York Islanders schedule, especially with the significance of Saturday’s game. It will mark their first game on UBS Arena ice and the opening of the state-of-the-art building that the Islanders had been trying to build for the past three decades.
The news about Lee and Johnston soured the mood a bit heading into such a monumental moment for the franchise, but Lamoriello said the team has been handling it well.
“Right now there is a total preparation for getting ready for tomorrow night,” Lamoriello said. “We had a good skate today, good meetings and we’re just going along on a normal process. There is nothing we can control. Certainly, everyone is concerned about their teammates. We know that they are healthy.”