The NHL announced that 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the Phase 2 process began on June 8.
To be more specific, the NHL split up the positive COVID-19 test results this way:
- 15 players involved in Phase 2 (skating in small groups at team facilities) tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL notes that at least 250 players reported to team facilities during Phase 2. During that process, the league administered at least 1,450 COVID-19 tests on those players.
- Of course, there are also players who haven’t reported to team facilities. The NHL revealed that it is aware of 11 additional players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 since June 8, the beginning of Phase 2. Note that players outside of Phase 2 aren’t subjected to the same level of oversight as those voluntarily reporting to teams.
The NHL added that all players who tested positive have self-isolated and are following CDC/Health Canada protocols.
Here’s the full NHL release on 26 players testing positive for COVID-19:
NHL statement on COVID-19 testing results: pic.twitter.com/HalBsLro77
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 29, 2020
On June 19, the Lightning shut down their team facilities after three players and multiple staff members tested positive for COVID-19. That only represented a brief pause, though, as the Lightning jumped back into Phase 2 on June 24. Around that time, Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun also reported that Auston Matthews tested positive for COVID-19. The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t confirm or deny that report.
Pondering what’s next after 26 NHL players test positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2
The Athletic’s Joe Smith recently took a look at the Lightning resuming Phase 2 (sub required). That article conveys the self-quarantine process. Yet, at the same time, Smith also captures the lack of certainty amid this pandemic.
In other NHL return-to-play news, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the league is unlikely to make hub city announcements on Monday:
Update: There is not expected to be any official announcement today from NHL/NHLPA regarding locations of NHL Hub cities for 2019-20 RTP. https://t.co/47MHgoBwXw
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 29, 2020
Various reports indicate that the NHL hopes to transition from Phase 2 to Phase 3 (formal training camps) in mid-July. Earlier, it was indicated that the target date was July 10. That might change thanks to recent events, however. In the latest edition of “31 Thoughts,” Elliotte Friedman reported that the date could be moved by “three to five days, max.”
To get even more hopeful, the aim is for a full NHL return (Phase 4) in late July or early August. Obviously, that’s a work in progress. The NHL would need to clear hurdles to get there, especially if more players test positive for COVID-19.
Positive tests for COVID-19, hub city issues, and more NHL return stories:
- Full NHLPA to vote on return to play, possible CBA extension.
- Dallas, Pittsburgh ruled out as hub cities; list of options down to six.
- Auston Matthews reportedly tests positive, NHL announces 11 players overall.
- Lightning players, staff test positive for COVID-19, pausing Phase 2. Less than a week later, the Bolts returned to Phase 2.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.