NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 20, 2020

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.

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.

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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 19, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 19, 2020

The Canadian government clears the way for allowing hub cities, a CBA extension could be part of the return-to-play plan, plus updates on Seth Jones, Sean Couturier, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites a Canadian Press report indicating the Canadian government has issued an order-in-council that would allow Edmonton, Toronto, or Vancouver to serve as one of the NHL’s two hub cities for its 24-team playoff tournament later this summer.

Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena could be among one of two host arenas for the NHL’s playoff tournament.

The order, which now awaits the Governor-General’s signature, would allow the NHL to work around Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine protocol for individuals entering the country. The league had to provide a plan that adhered to Canada’s public health requirements before the government went ahead with the order.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those three Canadian cities are among 10 in the running to host the tournament. Las Vegas is reportedly considered the front-runner, but it’s also believed the league prefers placing one of those hosts in Canada.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun cites a source claiming the NHL and NHL Players Association are attempting to negotiate the layers for Phase 3 and 4 of the return-to-play plan while also trying to hammer out an extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

LeBrun’s source, who’s close to the negotiations, suggested the return-to-play plan and a CBA extension (or a memo of understanding for the latter) could be presented as one package to the players before the end of this month.

LeBrun also reports there are players with questions about such issues such as health concerns in their respective NHL cities, life under quarantine conditions during the tournament, and economic issues such as escrow payments.

Should the playoff tournament go off without a hitch, the Stanley Cup could be awarded in early October, with the draft and free agency beginning later in that month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A CBA extension (perhaps to 2026) would be a silver lining in the COVID cloud hanging over the NHL. Because of the effects of the pandemic upon hockey-related revenue, both sides must work together to ensure labor peace in the coming years. Given the limited timeline and the myriad of issues to be discussed, it remains to be seen if they can work out an agreement by the end of June. 

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports if an NHL  player tests positive for COVID-19 we won’t know what team they belong to. Instead, the league could simply say a player has tested positive. McKenzie speculates it could be part of a weekly report going forward indicating how many players have or haven’t tested positive.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will raise questions over which teams those players belong to, how many of them could be sidelined, and the effect upon the proposed playoff tournament. 

McKenzie thinks most of the players understand the need to return to action is an important one but there is a vocal minority raising concerns. He feels a player could be allowed to opt-out of returning if he had strong objections of doing so.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McKenzie and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the league and the PA are believed to be working on opt-out language in the plan for players who don’t want to return. Friedman also said part of the pitch will be the quarantine bubble the teams will be under will be safer than in some parts of North America.

McKenzie also said a decision on the two host cities could come next week. The league’s preference is a home team doesn’t play in its own hub. In other words, if Las Vegas is selected, the Vegas Golden Knights could play in the other hub city.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports the NHL has assured its coaches they won’t face any restrictions preventing them from doing their jobs. Those of a certain age or in an at-risk demographic won’t be prevented from being behind the bench. Health and safety protocols for coaches and their interactions with players are still being discussed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The coaches could be required to wear masks behind the bench and elsewhere in the facility. We’ll learn more details when the league and the PA release their health protocol plans for Phase 3 and 4.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets defensemen Seth Jones (right ankle fracture and sprain) and Dean Kukan (knee injury) have been activated off injured reserve.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild forward Luke Kunin knows he’s at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because he’s a type-1 diabetic. Nevertheless, he remains focused on joining his teammates for the playoff tournament. “I don’t think it’s going to stop me from suiting up,” said Kunin.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov are among the Flyers that have taken part in small-group training at the team’s practice facility.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Goaltender Darcy Kuemper is among several Coyotes skating at Gila River Arena in preparation for the league’s return-to-play tournament.

TSN: Vancouver Canucks forward Nikolay Goldobin signed a two-year contract with KHL club CSKA Moscow. He’s slated to become a restricted free agent at the end of this NHL season.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Former NHL player Dan Carcillo is one of two former CHL players to file a class-action lawsuit alleging they were routinely hazed, bullied, physically and verbally harassed, and physically and sexually harassed and assaulted during their junior careers. This comes days after a former Kitchener Rangers player claimed he was forced to do cocaine in a team bathroom during his rookie season in 2016.










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