Rangers forward Ryan Strome sat home on Christmas watching a full slate of NBA games and a couple in the NFL being played. And he wondered why that wasn’t happening in the NHL.
Strome and Jacob Trouba are the Rangers’ representatives to the NHL Players’ Association, and Strome hopes if the NHL returns to action this week, the league will adjust its COVID-19 health and safety protocols to keep future games from being postponed.
The Rangers will endure their third straight postponement Monday night, but they are slated to resume their schedule Wednesday night against the Panthers in Florida.
“I don’t know. I think we probably have to change the protocols,” Strome said after the Blueshirts reconvened for practice Sunday in Tarrytown. “Like, the NBA and the NFL are playing.
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“Obviously we have a little bit of an issue at the border. We have more Canadian teams than those other leagues, which is unique but, like, I’m sitting at home at Christmas watching the NBA playing at Madison Square Garden, and it’s like kind of weird to me.”
The Rangers had three players enter the league’s health and safety protocols after testing upon returning to their practice facility: goalie Alexandar Georgiev and defensemen Ryan Lindgren and Patrik Nemeth.
Strome, who tested positive for COVID-19 in October, acknowledged that “there’s a lot of hurdles” for the NHL to alter its protocols. But he stressed that most of his teammates — all of whom received the first two doses of approved vaccine shots — have been asymptomatic after testing positive. He also revealed that “some guys” on the Rangers have received a booster shot, but he wasn’t specific with the numbers.
“I think the way the other leagues have handled it, obviously it seems to be working and they’re playing games and we’re watching the football games [Sunday] after practice,” Strome said. “So I think with everything, we have to evolve with what we’ve gone through and I think it’s probably time to look at things.”
The NFL last week announced scaling back its test rules for asymptomatic vaccinated players, and Strome added that he believes allowing asymptomatic players to continue playing “seems like that’s where we’re headed and that to me makes the most sense.”
“We’re so excited for the season, we’re watching the other leagues play, and we want to play. That’s really it,” Strome said.
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said any decision to alter protocols is “not my department.” His job is to prepare whatever players are available for whenever the games resume.
“There’s a lot of people trying to do the best thing they can to keep people safe and that’s the No. 1 factor … to keep the players safe and our staff safe and that’s the most important thing for me.
“You want to play games, everybody wants to play games, but there are protocols to go by and I’m on board for that.”
The Rangers are off to a 19-7-4 start through 30 games, one point behind first-place Carolina and Washington in the Metropolitan Division. They dropped three of their final four games (1-2-1), however, before last Wednesday’s game against Montreal was postponed.
“We want to play. We’re a good team this year. We want to keep what we’ve got going,” Strome said. “I think we’re not satisfied. I think that’s the best part about our team is that we realize that there’s other levels to get to. … Looking for more.
“I mean, listen, the first 30 games have been good, but we want to be playing in April, May, June. So that’s kind of our goal, and we’re gonna keep building.”