NWHL team catches COVID, drops out of ‘bubble’ season

A member of the Metropolitan Riveters women’s professional hockey organization carries sticks toward the team’s bus outside the Lake Placid Olympic Center at around 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28. (Provided photo — Rachel Sharples)

LAKE PLACID — And then there were five.

The National Women’s Hockey League announced Thursday, Jan. 28 that the Metropolitan Riveters, one of six teams playing a scheduled two-week season at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, has withdrawn. And just like so many instances across the world of sports during the past several months, the coronavirus was the culprit.

The league put a news release on its website that said, “The Metropolitan Riveters have withdrawn from the 2021 NWHL season after several members of the organization tested positive for COVID-19.”

The Riveters, whose home territory encompasses the New York City and New Jersey metropolitan area, had already played three games in the league’s two-week “bubble” season at the Lake Placid Olympic Center. They were last on the ice at Herb Brooks Arena Tuesday evening during a 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Whitecaps.

The Riveters were next scheduled to face the Buffalo Beauts on Wednesday, but the Toronto Six wound up playing Buffalo instead. Early Thursday, the league’s website had the Riveters and the Beauts matchup rescheduled for Saturday, but by the time mid afternoon rolled around, the NWHL officially said the Riveters had withdrawn from the season, which started on Jan. 23 with a triple-header and is slated to run through the championship game on Friday, Feb. 5.

League spokesperson Chris Botta would not explain the rules of the bubble — specifically what players and staff are allowed to do — but he did say players were allowed to walk between the Olympic Center and their respective hotels while staying in the village.

He also said all players and staff associated with the six teams were required to have negative COVID-19 tests before traveling to Lake Placid, and he added that after arriving for the condensed season, people affiliated with the squads, including players, were going to be tested “regularly” while in Lake Placid. Botta would not say how regularly these tests would be.

Botta did not comment about any possible COVID-19 cases among the other five teams playing in Lake Placid.

A doubleheader scheduled for Thursday evening had been canceled, and Botta said the NWHL plans on resuming play at noon Saturday. The schedule was still being worked out as of Thursday evening.

“Our plan is to be back in action Saturday,” Botta said.

“Our team is heartbroken to not have the chance to compete for the Isobel Cup, but we are aligned with the League in prioritizing the well-being of all of the players and staff,” Riveters head coach Ivo Mocek said in the news release. “We wish the best to our respected opponents, and I assure you that the Metropolitan Riveters will be back to compete again in Season 7 for our fans and all of our amazing supporters.”

In addition to the Riveters, the Beauts, the Whitecaps and the Six, the Boston Pride and the Connecticut Whale are the teams comprising the NWHL.