On Wednesday afternoon, the NWHL announced that it is suspending the current season “due to new positive COVID-19 tests.” The semifinal round of the Isobel Cup playoffs had been slated to get underway tomorrow.
The news comes after two teams (the Metropolitan Riveters and Connecticut Whale) withdrew from the tournament within the last week. The Riveters opted out last Thursday after “several members of the organization tested positive for COVID-19,” while no reason was initially provided when Connecticut withdrew on Monday night.
On Wednesday evening, two days after withdrawing and following the news of the season suspension, Connecticut issued a statement that said, in part, “The Connecticut Whale prioritize our players’ health and safety above all else.” The statement did not explain whether Connecticut had made the decision to withdraw as a result of new positive tests within its own organization, or due to concern over positive tests within the league as a whole.
All six NWHL teams arrived in Lake Placid, New York, just under two weeks ago for the start of the abridged 2021 season. While the tournament had been advertised as a “bubble” environment, the number of positive COVID cases raises questions about what quarantine protocols were in place ahead of players and staff traveling to Lake Placid, as well as procedures on the ground once they arrived. The Ice Garden reported that the four teams owned by the league – Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, and Minnesota Whitecaps – shared the same team trainers.
This marks the second straight NWHL season in which the Isobel Cup playoffs were disrupted due to COVID-19. Last year’s championship game between Boston and Minnesota was originally scheduled for March 13, but was postponed and then ultimately cancelled.
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 story will continue to be updated.