COVID-19 reminded the NHL and the pro sports world on Friday that it hasn’t just gone away. Major League Baseball and the NHL were the latest sports leagues to be affected by positive Coronavirus cases as the Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays had positive tests and the Tampa Bay Lightning had to shut down their facilities during Phase 2 because three players and two staff members tested positive for the virus.
With the NHL in Phase 2 (voluntary workouts) of the NHL Return To Play plan, the three Lightning players and two staffers as well as Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews testing positive for COVID19, Boston Hockey Now asked NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly what would happen in the playoffs if a team loses a good portion of players to a post-positive quarantine? Will the playoffs be halted or canceled? Or will a team be able to call up more players and break the hub city bubble to fill out their roster? According to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly that depends on the exact situation then and while the news around the NHL and the NHL and sports world were alarming, it won’t halt the return from making it to Phase 3 (training camp) – that opens July 10 – and hopefully Phase 4 and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Will depend on circumstances,” Daly told Boston Hockey Now in an email Friday night. “But we are proceeding on the basis that one or several positives may very well happen, and that alone won’t affect the ability to continue with the tournament.”
In an email to the Associated Press earlier in the day, Daly acknowledged the major COVID19 spikes in Coronavirus cases in states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada where the NHL reportedly wants to host the Eastern Conference teams in a Hub City.
The Lightning positive tests come exactly a week after an unnamed Boston Bruins player tested positive. Currently, players aren’t tested every day and as Sweeney explained to the media in a Zoom call last Friday, that will change in Phase 3 but for now, it’s a learning process for all teams.
As Sweeney acknowledged everyone is still in the learning process as far as dealing with COVID19 goes.
“I think everybody’s learning, with how we properly interact and distance and react to the original test results we’re seeing,” said Sweeney. “We’ll be testing daily when we get to the later stages. … This phase is a voluntary phase, but I think we’re learning and we’ll continue to learn throughout this as the players go through it and really everybody interacts.”
It’s worth noting that for the last two days, the Bruins didn’t send out what were becoming daily emails to the press with photos and videos of the players that worked out each respective day. A text to a member of the Bruins PR department regarding this matter was not returned.
The Lightning made it clear that they’re not taking any chances if multiple players test positive and as Bob McKenzie of TSN – who broke the news on the Bolts Friday – pointed out, the fact that Phase 2 is voluntary and doesn’t keep players locked in a bubble presents the vulnerability for multiple players to test positive but in Phases 3 and 4, the bubble they live in will minimize the chances this happens.
The inherent exposure of the strictly voluntary Phase Two is that the players aren’t locked down from the public in any way. And with case counts in FLA and ARI skyrocketing of late, it should come as no surprise if NHL players in those hot spots will test positive.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 19, 2020