Veteran New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said Monday that a growing number of players are concerned the NHL will announce a “drop-dead” deadline for returning to play as the coronavirus pandemic lingers with summer coming up fast.
The 34-year-old Schneider said some Devils are apprehensive because the NHL has said it would take three weeks of training before allowing games. That would take any restart into June.
“I think that’s everyone’s concern right now,” said Schneider, the team’s union representative. “It’s a lot of guys asking is there a drop-dead date? What’s the date that it’s just too late, that you can get a semblance of a season or a playoff.”
A late restart has the potential to cause a delay in the start of the 2020-21 schedule. Schneider said it doesn’t make sense to restart the season if the hiatus goes into June and July. The Stanley Cup is typically awarded in early to mid-June.
The NHL paused the season on March 12. League spokesman John Dellapina said last week officials are not publicly discussing any deadlines.
“We are following the guidance of medical experts and government authorities regarding when we can open club facilities,” he said.
The NBA, which stopped its season just before the NHL, cleared the way to open team practice facilities for individual voluntary workouts beginning May 8. The NFL is allowing teams to open their club headquarters to a limited number of personnel starting Tuesday. Both leagues have required state approval for such moves.
The Devils have a 28-29-12 record and 68 points, last in the Metropolitan Division. Schneider said he wants to play but is concerned about returning for six or seven meaningless games. Players would have to isolate themselves but still increase their risk to possible infection – and injuries.
“Is it worth it for us to spend five, six weeks to do something that ultimately won’t matter?” Schneider asked. “Personally, I would like to at least get out and get that feeling again. Nine or 10 months is a long time to not have played a game and not really ramp it up in that sense. My hope is that we get a chance to come back and play.”