Once again, COVID is at the heart of it.
The NWHL and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) have agreed, due to new positive COVID-19 tests and the resulting safety concerns for the players, their respective staff & the community that the remainder of the 2021 NWHL Season in Lake Placid have been suspended.— NWHL (@NWHL) February 3, 2021
This year the NWHL decided against playing a normal season that involved traveling for home and away games. Instead, they set up what has been called a bubble by the league since it was announced. During the press conference discussing the suspension of the season, the league repeatedly walked back the bubble title and instead called it a “Restrictive Access Environment.” While the meaning of this was not made 100% clear, it is clear that players who were not in Lake Placid were allowed to join after a negative test before entry and upon arrival. It is unclear about how well this option was communicated to all the teams, after Buffalo added a player prior to the play-in series the Boston staff was clearly disgruntled.
Before today, two teams had already been removed from contention: The Metropolitan Riveters were forced to withdraw due to a high level of cases that exceeded the limit set forth by the league and the regional health authorities. Then, the Connecticut Whale chose to withdraw, officially it was put out that they withdrew to protect their players “physical and mental well-being.”
A statement from the Connecticut Whale. pic.twitter.com/fAecasUP2S— Connecticut Whale (@CTWhale_NWHL) February 3, 2021
It has been reported by The Boston Globe’s Matthew Porter that the Pride’s coach Paul Mara and five other members of the team tested positive for COVID since yesterday.
Paul Mara: "I feel great. I appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers.— Matt Porter (@mattyports) February 3, 2021
"If I could take on all the symptoms our org. feels myself, I would. I feel terrible for them. They don't deserve this."
Says Pride "followed protocol to a T."
The league started to come to the realization around 9:30 last night that things were trending in the wrong direction. Once more, tests came in the League communicated with regional authorities and they agreed that the trend was not good. At this point commissioner Ty Tumminia decided to put the safety of the players and staff ahead of continuing play.
At this time, the league is still hoping to continue play at some point. Tumminia declined to elaborate on any plans for resumption, specifically whether or not Connecticut and Metropolitan would have the opportunity to compete. This will likely not be resolved in the near future.
The Ice Garden has transcribed the entirety of the press conference and made it available.