By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – Amidst rising COVID-19 concerns and confirmed cases in sports, multiple pro and collegiate teams have postponed or cancelled games, including some from Colorado. On Friday, the National Hockey League announced the Colorado Avalanche were among several teams to have games postponed, “due to concern with the number of positive cases within the last two days,” as well concern for continued spread.

(credit: Getty Images)

On the same day, Colorado State University men’s basketball cancelled its upcoming game against Tulsa in Fort Worth, Texas due to “COVID-related issues” on the team.

“What’s happening in sports I think is similar to what’s happening around the country, but I think sports is in a particular situation that puts it at risk,” said Dr. Jay Finigan, a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health and the director of the Respiratory Centers of Excellence.

Finigan said athletes are often at higher risk due to several factors, including that they play in close proximity and often can’t wear masks effectively while doing so. Those factors may be leading to an increase in cases among athletes, despite high rates of vaccination.

“Having a vaccine is very effective against preventing the virus but is not perfect,” Finigan said. “Certainly, if you put somebody into a high-risk situation and there’s a lot of virus exposure, there’s a chance they’re going to get it, however they generally seem to do much better.”

Finigan called the current situation facing sports and the rest of society a “race between vaccines and variants.” While postponements could help slow spread, he said any updated safety measures by leagues and communities that prioritize vaccination, testing, and social distancing would help keep things from getting out of control.

“The ability to minimize the impact is largely dependent on how quickly you move, so I think sports teams are trying to get on top of this quickly to minimize the impact it has on their team,” Finigan said.

Will Evans, owner of Society Sports and Spirits, hopes that’s sooner rather than later. Avalanche game nights normally result in a packed bar, but the postponement of Saturday’s game led to quite the opposite.

“I had to cut six shifts from my employees today,” Evans said. “Normally, every seat is filled. Right now, we’re maybe at half capacity.”

For Eric and Anne Brandberg, who are working to see the Tampa Bay Lightning play in every NHL arena, it’s déjà vu all over again. The two traveled to Denver for the team’s scheduled game against the Avalanche and learned about the postponement after walking out of the team store Friday.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” Eric Brandberg said. “We were crushed. This is the second time this has happened.”

With early flights back home being expensive, the couple is now making the best of a hockey-less trip to Denver and considering its own postponement.

“We’re 0 for 2 now since we’ve done this, so I think we’ll wait for the pandemic to end.”

Conor McCue