NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 20, 2020
Eleven players, including reportedly Auston Matthews, test positive for COVID-19. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
11 NHL PLAYERS TESTING POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
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.
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.
IN OTHER NEWS…
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.