NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 20, 2020

by | Jun 20, 2020 | News, NHL | 19 comments

Eleven players, including reportedly Auston Matthews, test positive for COVID-19. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: The NHL released a statement yesterday indicating 11 players out of over 200 had tested positive for COVID-19 since the implementation of Phase 2 of the return-to-play plan on June 8. Those players have been self-isolated and are following CDC and Health Canada protocols.

The statement also indicated the league will provide a weekly update on the number of tests administered to players and the results. It won’t provide information on the identity of the players or their teams.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (Photo via NHL Images).

The league’s statement came after the Tampa Bay Lightning temporarily closed their training facilities after three players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The Lightning claimed the players have self-isolated and are asymptomatic other than a few cases of low-grade fever.

It also comes after the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons reported Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews tested positive for the coronavirus. Simmons claimed Matthews was self-quarantined at home and hopes to be healthy enough and eligible to travel to Toronto to take part in the Leafs’ camp on July 10.

The Leafs subsequently released a statement saying they would not comment on the Sun report and would adhere to the league’s policy. “A person’s medical information in this regard is private,” it said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These reports yesterday come as the league and the NHL Players’ Association continue negotiations toward opening training camp on July 10 under Phase 3 and staging a 24-team playoff tournament under Phase 4 beginning in August. The news generated plenty of reaction on social media among fans and pundits.

Many believe the league should cancel the season, citing those reports as evidence the players’ health and safety cannot be assured under the current return-to-play plan. Others, however, point out those recent numbers involve players living and training in two states (Florida and Arizona) where COVID-19 cases are rising. They also note players currently training under Phase 2 are more exposed to the general public, whereas they’ll be far more protected under the quarantine bubble envisioned by the league for Phase 4.

Nevertheless, these latest numbers should be cause for concern. Phase 3 sees the players returning to their NHL cities for a three-week training camp before moving on to the two host cities for Phase 4. While the teams and players will follow stricter health protocols for Phase 3, they’ll still face ongoing exposure from the general public, especially in areas where COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

The NHL may have greater control over its playing environment under Phase 4, but getting to that point remains uncertain, especially if more players test positive in the coming weeks. It’s also likely to heighten concerns among the NHLPA membership, who have the power to shut this down if they lack confidence they will be suitably protected. 

The NHL also announced yesterday the approval of a cohort quarantine with the government of Canada for players entering the country, waiving the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. It paves the way for Edmonton, Toronto, or Vancouver to be chosen as one of the two host cities for the playoff tournament.

TORONTO SUN: Given the way COVID-19 cases are spiking in some parts of the United States, Lance Hornby suggests both host cities should be among those Edmonton, Toronto, or Vancouver.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Las Vegas is considered among the favorites as one of the two hosts, but Nevada is also reportedly among the American states where coronavirus cases are rising. That could force the league to consider host cities where the pandemic curve is flattened or declining.


TSN: The Pittsburgh Penguins may be leaning toward Matt Murray as their starting goalie for the qualifying round of the 24-team tournament. The Penguins are slated to face the Montreal Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Murray’s playoff experience, including back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, it shouldn’t be surprising. Nevertheless, his performance and health during training camp will also factor into determining if he gets the nod to face the Habs.

NEW YORK POST: Kaapo Kakko’s doctors and the Rangers’ medical staff have agreed the rookie winger can take part in the Phase 3 training camp next month. Kakko is a type-1 diabetic who could be susceptible to complications if he contracts COVID-19.


  1. “The NHL also announced yesterday the approval of a cohort quarantine with the government of Canada for players entering the country, waiving the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. It paves the way for Edmonton, Toronto, or Vancouver to be chosen as one of the two host cities for the playoff tournament.”

    THAT is going to backfire big-time for the Canadian PM if he and the provincial governments put the interest of hockey over the rest of the country when it comes to special dispensation.

    There are many more voters in Canada who don’t give a rat’s ass about hockey than do. As he will discover.

    • George, if the league keeps announcing more positive tests, it will not matter.

      • Forget the season playoffs.

    • I don’t know george. I guess I can’t speak for Canada and have to take your word for it but in the us athletes getting essential worker status was met with a collective..meh.

      Of course celebrities getting preferential treatment in the us is not just expected but often encouraged.

      • If the NHL can pull this off in a Canadian host city with no spread of COVID-19, Canadian voters won’t care.

      • But that’s a big IF – and, just as importantly, IF there is a spike in infections as as result, both the PM and the provincial premier involved can kiss their political butts goodbye.

      • I am actually fascinated by this George. Please keep me posted if either of those individuals loses their next election. The overall feel I get here in the us is that the opposite is true. Even if there are a spike in cases I think us voters would be more pissed if sports didn’t resume.

      • Will do Chrisms. I hope I’m wrong – but I’ve seen voters turn dramatically on far less important issues. Meanwhile, check out this article on marketing surveys which, although 3 years old, likely remain about the same today


    • So what about the mayors of Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver, and the premiers of Alberta, Ontario, and BC, George? They were the ones pushing for this long before the Canadian government agreed to a cohort quarantine. Indeed, they made the pitch that it would provide a much-needed boost to those cities and provincial economies.

      • I’m not disagreeing Lyle. What I’m saying is, any sudden spike in infections while the games are going on – regardless of whether players or coaches/staff are among the infected – will result in a rush to judgement by those who see it as being a result of their politicians giving hockey players preferential treatment not accorded to them. That is human nature, people like to point fingers and any politicians who were seen to be pushing for involvement will be under the gun. And you can bet your bottom dollar that opposition politicians will be quick to join in the condemnation.

        To make a mistake is human, but to blame it on someone else … well, that’s even more human.

  2. I agree with Hornby. The selection of Hub city should be guided by which coomunity poses the lowest risk. If that’s Columbus…we play in Columbus. If it’s Winnipeg…that’s where we play.
    The Phase IV Bubble will make a difference

    • As I’ve explained to you before, Mark, Winnipeg was ruled out because it lacks sufficient amenities to host 12 NHL teams. The only Canadian cities that meet the criteria are Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver. If a host city is in Canada, it will be one of those three.

      • The nhl would need some serious resources if hosting nhl players and families. A family with kids ain’t staying in a hotel room that ain’t a super suite won’t happen.

  3. The bad news is these players got covid, the good news is they got covid now.

    High risk if games start, teams star get covid, both goalies on the team get covid.

    As far as the election my vote won’t have anything to do with an Canadian city being a hub for the Nhl regardless if there is a 100 new cases or none.

    At some point we need to take the next step and there will be risk in each step.

    The Covid Cup will go to the next phase and we’ll see from there.

  4. So how do we not fire Simmons for exposing personal medical info? It’s simply classless. The league itself had a protocol of how the cases would be announced with a stress on not naming names.

    As a person of media Lyle, what’s your take on it? Steve Simmons the paparazzo of Leafs hockey. A true human turd.

    • He’s a journalist – when he gets his hands on verified news he reports it. The following is culled from the Ethics Guidelines for The Canadian Association Of Journalists

      “Right To Privacy

      The public has a right to know about its institutions and the people who are elected or hired to serve its interests. People also have a right to privacy, and those accused of crimes have a right to a fair trial.

      However, there are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy, and the rights of all citizens to be informed about matters of public interest. Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.

      We do not manipulate people who are thrust into the spotlight because they are victims of crime or are associated with a tragedy. Nor do we do voyeuristic stories about them. When we contact them, we are sensitive to their situations, and report only information in which the public has a legitimate interest.

      Journalists are increasingly using social networking sites to access information about people and organizations. When individuals post and publish information about themselves on these sites, this information generally becomes public, and can be used. However, journalists should not use subterfuge to gain access to information intended to be private. In addition, even when such information is public, we must rigorously apply ethical considerations including independent confirmation and transparency in identifying the source of information.”

      • What George said.

        Simmons is getting bashed for this, but from what I can see, he did nothing wrong.

      • I think he named names (just AustinJ was purposely leaked to get more hits which in the pap business it’s what it’s all about x no place or morals. Personal medical records are not for public consumption even for a public figure and in this case a celebrity. I don’t see how reporting a Leafs player having Covid-19 isn’t as effective as naming the player. I’m sure all of us won’t mind your most private info out in the public too. Just trash.