Women's pro hockey league shuts down over Covid before semis

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New York (AFP)

The National Women's Hockey League suspended the remainder of their 2021 "bubble" season due to new Covid-19 positives ahead of Thursday's semi-final games at Lake Placid, New York.

It marks the second year in a row the league could not decide a champion due to the virus pandemic, after last year's final between the Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps was called off as a Covid-19 safety precaution.

This year, six teams gathered in Lake Placid and planned a round-robin and playoffs at the 1980 Olympic arena, but the Metropolitan Riveters and Connecticut Whale dropped out before the end of round-robin play.

That left Boston to face Minnesota and the Buffalo Beauts to play the Toronto Six in Thursday's semi-finals before the NWHL tweeted it was shutting down the event early due to more positive Covid-19 tests.

"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 and the community, that the remainder of the 2021 NWHL season in Lake Placid has been suspended," the announcement said.

Toronto, an expansion club, went 4-1-1 while Minnesota was 3-1 to top the season standings.

"We don't have many words right now but what we do know is that we couldn't be more thankful for all of the support we've received over the last 10 months," the Six said in a tweet. "From launch on April 22nd to our first ever puck drop. We can't thank you all enough. We will be back."

"It has been an extremely tough day for all of our #Beauts players and staff," the Buffalo team tweeted. "We really wanted to make Buffalo proud and show our very best for our sport. We look forward to seeing our fans and our community sometime soon. We miss all of you!"