The Montreal Canadiens played Philadelphia in an empty Bell Centre on Thursday night. Quebec public health officials had urged the Canadiens not to allow fans because of a surge in COVID-19 cases. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP

Teams are once again struggling to stay on the court, ice and field as rosters and schedules are once again being impacted by COVID-19.

The Bruins have been hit hard by the COVID outbreak that forced the postponement of all games through Christmas. That means the team will be shut down for at least 10 days with no games until Dec. 27 at the earliest.

Boston wasn’t alone. Ten NHL teams are paused because of outbreaks through at least this weekend and there is talk of a league-wide shutdown. Other leagues were dealing with similar issues.

The NBA postponed five games on Sunday. The 76ers couldn’t field enough healthy players to face the Pelicans on Sunday and spent Monday cobbling together a roster for a game in Boston.

Tip-off was set for 7:30 p.m., well after kickoff of the rescheduled NFL game between Cleveland and Las Vegas. The Browns were particularly hard hit by COVID-19, with nearly two dozen players added to the list last week.

Having two Monday night games in December is practically unheard of. So is having Tuesday Night Football, which is what we get tomorrow when Philadelphia hosts Washington and the Rams host the Seahawks.

The pandemic has hit another surge, and the effects are being felt across the globe. The Premier League rescheduled games over the weekend. College sports are turning their schedules upside down in an effort to play all their games.

Yet hockey has been hit the worst of all. At least at the moment. And the rescheduling has hit the Bruins particularly hard. Boston already had an extremely light schedule to start the season. With more games being postponed, the Bruins have played as much as six fewer games than some other NHL teams. That deficit is only going to grow.

As it is, the Bruins were already scheduled to play 17 games in the first 32 days of 2022. There is no vacancy to shoehorn in some of the four (or more) games that will need to be rescheduled.

There is, however, another massive break looming. The Bruins – and the rest of the league – are off from Feb. 2-24 for the Olympic break. That’s a three-week opening that leads to another packed stretch of games. The current schedule calls for Boston to play 12 games in the final 20 days.

How do you add games to an already overcrowded schedule? The NHL has three choices:

1. Extend the season. No one is excited for that after last year’s Stanley Cup finals lasted into July.

2. Finish the season with teams playing different numbers of games. Use winning percentage instead of points to determine standings.

3. Cancel the Olympic break.

The third choice is the easiest. Sending NHL stars to China for the Olympics seems like a fool’s errand at this point. Olympic protocols call for quarantines as long as five weeks. Can you imagine a team losing one of its best players for several weeks after the three-week break?

Over the weekend, the NHL and its players’ association released a statement saying they were “actively discussing the matter of NHL Player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, and expect to be in a position to announce a final determination in the coming days.”

Common sense says the players should remain home and teams try to get schedules back on track. It won’t be easy – buildings have other events planned for that stretch. But after watching Montreal play a home game with no fans last week we’re reminded of what we learned in 2020. Sometimes, you just need to get the games played. That could mean playing in AHL or college arenas, if that’s what it takes, to play out the schedule.

In the meantime, we all hope that this latest surge doesn’t spiral out of control. We lived through a three-month stretch without sports last year. No one wants that again.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.

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