World Juniors to have 50 per cent capacity due to new restrictions in Alberta

  • Alberta cuts capacity in half for sporting venues, world juniors tournament
  • Quebec junior league on pause
  • Seven Raptors in COVID protocols
  • Olympic tennis champ tests positive
  • Speed Skate Canada cancels Olympic skate-off
  • Washington-Philadelphia NHL game postponed

Alberta is bringing in stricter COVID-19 restrictions, including a capacity limit for the world junior hockey tournament.

Premier Jason Kenney says large venues that seat more than 1,000 people, including sports arenas, will be capped at half capacity.

Eating and drinking while seated in the venues will be banned.

He says restaurants will be limited to 10 people per table.

The restrictions are to come into effect on Friday.

Canada is scheduled to open the world junior championship on Sunday against the Czechs at Edmonton’s Rogers Place.

In a statement released Tuesday, Hockey Canada stated that it “fully support the direction taken by the Province of Alberta, and we will continue to do our part to maintain the health and safety of all World Juniors participants and the community at large.”

It also mentioned that its event ticketing team is addressing the change and will be in contact with ticket holders by Thursday’s end, but no information is otherwise available at this time.

WATCH | How long can sports venues remain full?:

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As the Omicron variant spreads and COVID case counts rise across sports leagues, infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness says it’s time to stop allowing full-capacity crowds in venues. 6:16

Quebec junior hockey league pauses activities

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has paused all activities until Jan. 7.

The league says the pause is necessary because of surging COVID-19 infection rates in Eastern Canada.

Players will report back to their clubs on Jan. 3.

The QMJHL says it’s working on updated protocols which will include preventive testing prior to the arrival of players and staff within the team environment.

In a statement issued today the QMJHL says players and staffs’ safety remains its top priority.

Postponed games will be rescheduled at a later date.

The country’s other two major junior leagues, the Ontario and Western Hockey Leagues, are on regularly scheduled holiday breaks, with games in the WHL still scheduled to start on Dec. 27, and in the OHL On Dec. 28.

7 Raptors in NBA’s COVID-19 protocols

Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa were added to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols by the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, hours after teammates Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn were sidelined. There are now seven Raptors in league protocols.

Gary Trent Jr. was added to Toronto’s list on Monday, joining Pascal Siakam and Dalano Banton.

Toronto is scheduled to play in Chicago on Wednesday night after its game against Orlando on Monday in Toronto was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Magic. 

Bencic complains on ‘severe symptoms’

Olympic tennis champion Belinda Bencic has tested positive for COVID-19 after her trip to Abu Dhabi and has “severe symptoms,” she said on Tuesday, a day after Rafa Nadal announced he had also tested positive.

Both players had traveled to Abu Dhabi to play in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event last week. Nadal also said he was having some “unpleasant moments” after testing positive upon his return to Spain.

“Unfortunately and even though I am fully vaccinated, I recently tested positive for COVID-19,” Bencic said on Twitter. “I am currently isolating and taking all precautionary (measures) to get through this as best as possible as I am experiencing quite severe symptoms (fever, aches, chills).

“While the timing is not ideal — as I was in the final stages of my preparations for the Australian Open swing — I will make my way to Australia as soon as I am cleared and past the isolation period.”

Bencic lost to Tunisian Ons Jabeur, who had replaced U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu after the latter tested positive for COVID-19 and withdrew from the event.

The Australian Open begins on Jan. 17.

WATCH | Will NHLers go to the Olympics?:

Canadian Olympic men’s hockey power rankings: Will NHLers go?

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Rob Pizzo addresses the giant elephant in the room: whether or not the NHL/NHLPA will pull the plug on the Olympics. 5:34

Olympic skate-off cancelled for Canadian speed skaters

Speed ​​Skating Canada has cancelled its Olympic long track skate-off and Canadian junior championships, scheduled for Dec. 27-31 in Quebec City.

Because the event was to be used as a last-chance competition for long track speed skaters to make the Olympic team, the organization said it is working to adjust the criteria for team selection for the Beijing Olympics in February.

Caps-Flyers NHL game postponed

The Washington Capitals-Philadelphia Flyers game scheduled for Tuesday night has been postponed.

It’s the 50th NHL game postponed this season for coronavirus-related reasons. The league said COVID-19 issues with the Capitals prompted the postponement.

That left the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Vegas Golden Knights as the only game left in the NHL this week. The league and players’ association agreed to begin the annual holiday break early and push off the games that were scheduled for Thursday.

Of the 50 games postponed, 45 have occurred over the past two weeks with the delta and omicron variants spreading across North America. More than 15 per cent of the league’s 700-plus players are in virus protocol, a list that continues to grow.

Adam Silver has ‘no plans’ to pause NBA season

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday that there are “no plans” to pause the season, even as numbers of players entering the league’s health and safety protocols related to the coronavirus continues to rise.

Silver, in an interview with ESPN, said the league has examined multiple options but does not yet see a reason to stop play. Through early Tuesday evening, at least 84 players from 20 teams — not including some coaches and staffers — were believed to be in the protocols, though those numbers tend to change almost on an hourly basis. The count is largely based on what teams have disclosed on their most recent injury report.

“Frankly, we’re having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now,” Silver said. “As we look through these cases literally ripping through the country right now, putting aside the rest of the world, I think we’re finding ourselves where we sort of knew we were going to get to for the past several months — and that is that this virus will not be eradicated and we’re going to have to learn to live with it. That’s what we’re experiencing in the league right now.”

Silver’s remarks came on the same day that the 10 NBA teams with games scheduled on Christmas were told by the league that shifting some game times is a possibility for the planned five-game slate, if virus-related issues force changes to the lineup and create holes in the national television schedule.

21 more NFL players test positive for COVID-19

Another 21 NFL players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, including Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill, cornerback Rashad Fenton and tight end Blake Bell.

They were among nine players, including two on the practice squad, who joined tight end Travis Kelce and kicker Harrison Butker on Kansas City’s growing list.

Kansas City also has Charvarius Ward on the list, which means two of their top three cornerbacks are in the league’s virus protocol, along with defensive tackle Chris Jones, linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and wide receiver Josh Gordon.

Linebacker Nick Bolton, offensive lineman Kyle Long, right tackle Lucas Niang and safety Armani Watts also were added to list on Tuesday.

On Monday, the first day under the NFL’s revised protocols, 47 players were placed on the COVID-19 list, the most in a single day since the pandemic began.

Another receiver on an AFC contender tested positive Tuesday when the Buffalo Bills placed wideout Cole Beasley — the team’s most vocal vaccine critic — on the COVID-19 list. Unvaccinated players aren’t eligible to return for 10 days so Beasley wouldn’t be available for Sunday’s game at New England with first place in the AFC East on the line.

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