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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 17, 2020
The NHL has devoted a lot of time and money to ensure that its players, coaches and staff remain healthy after they are placed in bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton on July 24 in preparation for a return to play on July 30.
But the key to a successful relaunch may be how teams and individual players navigate the time leading up to the bubble in the two hub cities for the 24-team postseason tournament.
The Canadiens and the 23 other teams will begin training camp Monday, and while there will be attempts to isolate the players there won’t be a bubble. Some players will be staying in their homes and others will be in hotels. They may be eating in restaurants and some Canadiens might even be tempted to wander up the road from the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard to the Quartier DIX30 and have a post-practice beer at Mile Public House, the site of a COVID-19 outbreak last week.
You would hope the players will be smart and do everything they can to avoid being infected. But there’s evidence some players haven’t been careful enough.
The NHL began testing for COVID-19 on June 8 when players were allowed to gather for small-group training at team facilities. As of Tuesday, the NHL reported 23 players had tested positive. The NHL, which doesn’t identify the players or the teams involved, said another 12 players had tested positive in tests outside the training regimen.
When the NHL first announced its return to play protocol, deputy commissioner Bill Daly was asked what would happen if a player tested positive and he said that wouldn’t halt play. The question now becomes: What does the league do if a significant number of players are infected?
You could argue that the NHL is on the cusp of reaching that number. The 35 positive tests indicate that close to 6 per cent of the players in the NHL have contracted COVID-19. For comparison’s sake, the infection rate in the United Stares, which is at the epicentre of the pandemic, is less than one per cent.
If the NHL doesn’t get a handle on this problem before heading to the hub cities, they run the danger of dealing with the same chaos that has disrupted the MLS return to play. The soccer league has seen its bubble burst at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando and the result is that two teams — FC Dallas and Nashville SC — have been pulled out of the MLS Is Back Tournament after experiencing outbreaks.
New arrivals in Brossard: Joel Armia, Artturi Lehkonen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi skated for the first time Thursday in Brossard since the NHL season was shut down on March 12 because of COVID-19. That brings the number of players skating in Brossard up to 22. They are participating in the voluntary small-group workouts as part of Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020