The NHL is allowing players to go back to their home cities, per a league memo sent out on Monday.
Just two days ago, the league told their players to stay in their teams’ respective cities, but they’ve since made a significant change to that plan. The NHL is also telling players to self-quarantine until the end of March once they arrive at their home base.
This would indicate that the NHL realized that the season might not get going as quickly as they initially believed.
Here’s what the league announced:
1. Effective immediately, players can opt to return home (outside of the club’s home city, including outside of North America, to the extent flights are available).
2. The self-quarantine period should continue within the player’s home through and including Friday, March 27, unless a longer period may be required in accordance with local mandates related to travel. Players should continue to report immediately any symptoms or testing results to club medical staff.
3. At the end of the self-quarantine period, and depending on world developments between now and then, consideration will be given to allowing the opening of club facilities to players in scheduled and coordinated small groups for voluntary training and care of the players on the same basis as in the off-season.
4. Our objective will be that, in addition to continuing regular updates, we will be able to provide high-level guidance on the potential of opening a training camp period roughly 45 days into the 60-day period covered by the CDC’s directive.
Ideally, a plan might be for camps to re-open in late-April. Planning to re-open is great, but the reality is that there’s no guarantee they will be able to do so.
This change comes just hours after the CDC recommended that all public events involving 50 people or more be put on hold for the next eight weeks.
“CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers … cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States,” it said, per the Associated Press. “Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing.”
It’s okay to ask players, especially those living away from family, to stay and wait for a little while. But preventing them from going home, while the NHL season is paused wouldn’t have made much sense.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.