While the NHL and the NHL Players’s Association are working on a resumption plan, the league says 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past three weeks.
We cannot get a complete picture of the infection rate in the NHL population until the training camps open next month. Fifteen of the positive tests announced on Monday came from participants in voluntary small group training in NHL facilities – a group of more than 250 participants, or about a third of the total amount needed for the planned restart with 24 teams.
The other 11 positive results came from players who have not yet been regularly tested according to the league's return-to-play protocol.
Comprehensive testing is expected to be part of the overall package, which is now being completed by NHL and NHLPA. They are believed to be on the verge of agreeing on a plan that will include the location of two turnstile cities for games, protocols for the training camp and competition phase, and the framework for an extension of the collective agreement – all subject to approval.
The hope was to get NHLPA membership to vote by the end of this week.
It is an enormous undertaking, especially when you consider how fluid the situation is.
Keep in mind that at this point in the past week, progress had been made in choosing Vancouver and Las Vegas as the two capitals – only to see that Vancouver was dropped as an option when discussions with the B.C. Government about how positive tests would be handled within the bubble.
Meanwhile, talks between the NHL and the NHLPA on the location of the hub cities continued until Monday evening as coronaviruses became more common in different parts of the United States. There were sources who believed that two Canadian hubs could still be an option for the league, with Toronto and Edmonton still on offer. Chicago and Los Angeles are also among the finalists.
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world and tell the audience everything about what they heard and what they think about it.
Training camps are still scheduled to open on July 10, but there are some considerations among teams that they could be postponed to July 13. Players are expected to spend about two weeks in their home markets before traveling to the main cities where games could take place on or around August 1.
The goal of the NHL was to return as safely as possible and to keep players in a tightly controlled bubble with a variety of built-in security measures after the game started. This is expected to include daily tests.
Frequent testing, physical distancing, and wearing masks in team facilities will likely be part of the protocols for training camps – although it is expected that players will be allowed to stay in their own four walls during phase 3.
Given that currently more than 400 NHLers are not being tested at all, there will certainly be more positive results if the league continues to head for a restart. The over 250 participants in phase 2 have completed more than 1,450 combined tests since June 8 and achieved 15 positive results.
Preventing an outbreak in the gaming community is critical to the Stanley Cup award in October.
"I was involved in many conversations [return-to-play] and I'm pretty confident that once we get to the hub cities, we can do a good job of keeping them away," said veteran Toronto Maple Leafs striker Jason Spezza said recently. "I think it will be a challenge to get there, and a little bit of discipline on our part as a player is needed to make sure we don't derail the plans."
The NHL says that all players who tested positive have isolated themselves and follow the protocols established by Health Canada and the Centers for Disease Control.