Getty Images

The NHL is hitting pause on its season Wednesday through Christmas Day in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19. The league made the announcement on Monday night. Earlier in the day over 15% of the league's players were put in virus protocols. In total, 11 teams had their seasons paused over outbreaks before the league decided to pause play.

The NHL will mandate all teams close their facilities from Dec. 22-25. If they stick with this plan, players will be allowed to return on Dec. 26 and games will resume a day later.  

Before the NHL pauses its season, it is allowing one game to proceed as scheduled -- Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. The league was set to allow the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals play on Tuesday night as well, but the game was postponed on Tuesday afternoon due to COVID issues with the Caps.

The decision to pause the season comes after the NHL tightened its virus protocols to include daily testing, enhanced social-distancing measures and player-travel restrictions. The league also previously postponed all games involving Canada-U.S. travel through its regularly-scheduled Christmas break. 

ESPN reported the schedule may be disrupted enough for the NHL to use its opt-out clause for player participation in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Should the NHL opt-out of the Olympics, none of the league's players would be allowed to participate in February's Games.