TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper will not be leading his team on Tuesday in a game against the Las Vegas Golden Knights after the team announced he would be entering COVID protocols.
A spokesperson for the team said on Twitter that assistant coach Derek Lalonde would be taking over coaching duties as a result.
The Bolts are scheduled to take on Las Vegas at 10 p.m. in what is the final game before the NHL takes a hiatus due to a wave of positive COVID tests among players.
The league announced on Monday it would be halting all operations beginning Wednesday, Dec. 22, until Saturday, Dec. 25.
On top of this, the NHL also announced it would withdraw from the Winter Olympics due to the disruption of its regular-season schedule.
With 50 games already postponed, there was a fear the NHL would be unable to complete a full 82-game season while also taking a break of more than two weeks in February for the Olympics. The NHL’s bottom line is at stake with the league and players drawing no direct money from competing at the Winter Games.
While the NHL and NHLPA agreed on Olympic participation last year as part of a collective bargaining agreement extension, the deal to go to Beijing was contingent on pandemic conditions not worsening. A material interruption of the schedule allowed the league to pull out, and the delta and omicron variants spreading across North America not only caused games to be pushed off but made some players hesitant about going to China.
As a result, the men’s hockey tournament at the Olympics will go on without NHL players for the second consecutive time.