NHL delays start of Stars season after six players test positive for COVID-19

Crews clean as the ice is resurfaced at American Airlines Arena, home of the Dallas Stars. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

The NHL has announced six players and two staff members with the Dallas Stars have tested positive for COVID-19 and, as a result, the team will not be able to begin play before Jan. 19.

“Those individuals are self-isolating and following CDC and League protocols. As a result of the positive tests, and as an appropriate precaution, the team’s training facilities have been closed, effective immediately, and will remain closed for several days while further daily testing and contact tracing is conducted,” the NHL said in a statement. “The League is in the process of reviewing and revising the Stars’ regular season schedule with the expectation that the team will not open its 2020-21 season earlier than Tuesday, January 19.”

The Stars were scheduled to open the season with two games on the road against the Florida Panthers on Jan. 14 and 15 and two games at Tampa Bay on Jan. 17 and 19. The Stars, Panthers and Lightning are three of the NHL teams that will be opening their doors to a limited number of fans this season.

The Panthers confirmed in a statement Friday that the Jan. 14 and 15 games against the Stars had been postponed. In the statement, the team said fans who had purchased tickets for those games will be able to use them when the games are rescheduled.

“The NHL will announce the dates and times on which the games will be played once the schedule is revised,” the Panthers said in their statement.

On Friday morning, the Stars cancelled team practice and all media availabilities but the team did hold a full practice on Thursday.

The Stars weren’t the only team impacted by COVID-19 on Friday. The Columbus Blue Jackets announced that multiple players would miss practice due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols. The Blue Jackets had a skate with limited players in the morning and cancelled a second session scheduled for the afternoon.

The NHL successfully pulled off a return-to-play playoff tournament this past summer using secure bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto. There were no positive COVID-19 tests recorded during those two months and the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Stars to win the Stanley Cup.

Now, the NHL is attempting to play a shortened regular season in home markets. To limit travel, the 31 teams have been split into four divisions and will only play games against other teams in those divisions. The Stars are in the Central Division, with the Panthers, Lightning, Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators.

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