On Wednesday, the National Women’s Hockey League announced that its brief, two-week season and playoff tournament had been suspended until further notice.
“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,” the NWHL wrote in a statement released to social media on Wednesday.
This news comes just hours after the NWHL made headlines for its vast online audience of over 1.37 million live viewers that tuned in to watch the Buffalo Beauts take on the Boston Pride.
Despite the good news in terms of viewership, the NWHL dealt with a series of COVID-19 related absences, with the Metropolitan Riveters actually pulling out of the tournament altogether.
Last Tuesday, the team’s head coach Ivo Mocek did not surface from the dressing room for the third period, alongside forward Rebecca Russo. Wednesday’s scheduled game between the Riveters and the Buffalo Beauts was changed to the Beauts playing the Toronto Six, with the Riveters not participating, citing “a decision not to play was made in line with the NWHL’s medical protocols prioritizing the health and safety of all participants during this season in Lake Placid.”
Safety > everything else for the NWHL. It's awful that it comes to this, but this is the risk during a pandemic when it's not an air-tight bubble.
A lot went on in the last week, but one plus is that a lot of new eyes caught on to the NW/whockey and saw their high level of play
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) February 3, 2021
Seeing a significantly reduced schedule from past years, the two-week tournament saw each team arrive by January 22 and had each team set to play in five games (one game against each team), in order to determine the four teams moving on to the single-game semifinal. A single game Isobel Cup Final was set for Friday, February 5 to conclude the 2020-21 season. Unfortunately the teams fell short of that mark by a few days.
The newcomer ‘Toronto Six’ led the way with a 4-1-1 record through six games, while Minnesota and Boston trailed right behind with three victories apiece. The Pride played the most games, with the team dressing seven times, while the Riveters, of course, only skated in three contests before pulling the plug.