COVID-19 uptick impacts major North American sports leagues

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May 6, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; COVID-19 health and hygiene protocols are displayed on the Staples Center during the NBA game between the LA Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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LOS ANGELES, Dec 14 (Reuters) - A fresh wave of positive COVID-19 tests hit three major North American sports leagues this week, forcing the National Hockey League (NHL) to postpone games and throwing into question whether it will send players to the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

The NHL announced the postponement of the Carolina Hurricanes' game on Tuesday after additional players from the team were forced to enter COVID-19 protocols. read more

At least nine NHL games will need to be rescheduled following outbreaks at the Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders.

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Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid on Tuesday told the CBC that he wanted to compete at the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Winter Olympics.

However, he described potentially having to quarantine for up to five weeks in China in the event of a positive test as "unsettling".

"There hasn't been a ton of information come out, and then there's that three-to-five week (quarantine) thing ... it's kind of been floating around," McDavid said.

"Just trying to gather all the facts and information."

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league has until Jan. 10 to withdraw from the Beijing Games without financial penalty.

NBA, NFL PLAYERS ENTER PROTOCOLS

The National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Lakers canceled Tuesday's practice after guard Talen Horton-Tucker tested positive and entered health and safety protocols, ESPN reported.

Horton-Tucker's test result came a day after the NBA announced that two Chicago Bulls games had been postponed after 10 players and additional staff members were placed in protocols, which marked the first postponements the league has had to make this season.

Seven members of the Brooklyn Nets, including All-Star guard James Harden, had also entered into protocols, the team said.

The Nets had the NBA-minimum eight players available to start Tuesday night's contest against the Toronto Raptors.

The Milwaukee Bucks listed forward Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Wednesday's game after he too was placed in COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday.

To clear protocols, a player must be out for 10 days or return two negative PCR tests less than 24 hours apart.

The National Football League's Los Angeles Rams placed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and eight other players on the league's Reserve/COVID-19 list, the team said on Tuesday, which led to the closing of its practice facility.

Beckham scored a touchdown in the Rams' 30-23 road win over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday in a game where the Rams scratched four players just before the contest due to protocols.

"Where we're at right now is navigating through this COVID stuff," Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters on Tuesday.

"We had to test guys. We're in intensive protocols. We’re remote today. We will be remote tomorrow.

"This has definitely been the most uniquely challenging situation we've dealt with with COVID over the last two years."

The Cleveland Browns also added eight players to the COVID-19 list on Tuesday, including Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

On Monday, the NFL sent around a memo requiring their staff members to receive a vaccine booster. read more

No NFL games have been postponed due to COVID-19 yet this season.

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Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Davis/Peter Rutherford

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Thomson Reuters

Los Angeles-based sports reporter who interviews the most impactful athletes and executives in the world. Covers breaking news ranging from the highs of championship victories to the lows of abuse scandals. My work highlights the ways in which sports and the issues of race, gender, culture, finance, and technology intersect.