The NHL announced that 43 players tested positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2, which began on June 8. Phase 3 (formal training camps) began on Monday (July 13).
The NHL explained how those positive COVID-19 test results broke down since June 3.
- 30 NHL players participating in Phase 2 (limited skating at team facilities with small groups of teammates) tested positive for COVID-19. The league noted that more than 600 NHL players participated in Phase 2 activities.
- The NHL noted that they’re aware of 13 positive COVID-19 cases among players who stayed outside of Phase 2 protocol. (It’s unclear if that number could climb if more players still need to be tested.)
In sharing this announcement, the NHL allowed a look into its daunting process. The league conducted almost 5,000 COVID-19 tests, with the 600-plus players involved. (That’s certainly thorough. On the other hand, one can only speculate about the vast quantity of COVID-19 tests required for the entire NHL playoff process. Some will argue that it’s simply not worth it.)
Check out the full NHL release about 43 players testing positive for COVID-19 here:
NHL statement on COVID-19 testing results: pic.twitter.com/lAkEQJ0B8N
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) July 13, 2020
Travis Hamonic, Mike Green, and Roman Polak rank among the players who’ve opted out of an NHL return to play for various reasons. Other NHL players face a Monday 5 p.m. ET deadline to opt out. (Although there could be special circumstances, such as the Canadiens and Max Domi waiting to make a decision.)
More on positive COVID-19 results, and the process the NHL is undergoing
The NHL states that players who tested positive are following CDC and Health Canada protocols, such as self-isolating. It also noted that the league will not identify players or teams involving positive COVID-19 tests.
Of course, that won’t stop speculation, whether players or teams are named officially or not.
Earlier on Monday, word surfaced that the Penguins “voluntarily sidelined” nine players who may have had “secondary exposure” to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. As of this writing, players haven’t been named, leaving people to speculate.
Meanwhile, Auston Matthews confirmed that he contracted COVID-19, backing up a June report by the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons. Matthews noted that he was still able to train despite the positive COVID-19 test.
“Obviously wasn’t able to leave or anything,” Matthews said. “I think that’s really the only thing that kind of took a hit for me. I was skating beforehand and having to take two and a half, three weeks off obviously kind of catches up to you.”
Most importantly, Matthews said he’s feeling good and healthy after self-isolating.
Either way, Matthews’ name surfacing caused controversy. It remains to be seen if reporters and others unearth other names as the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers approach, and you can bet people will try to guess if the league and its teams decide not to be particularly forthcoming.
Plenty of challenges ahead for the NHL
Read the full list of critical dates here, but consider these points of interest as the NHL aims to award the 2020 Stanley Cup amid the COVID-19 pandemic:
July 13: Training camps open (Phase 3) and 5 p.m. ET deadline for players to opt out.
July 26: Teams report to their hub city. Eastern Conference teams go to Toronto, while West teams head to Edmonton.
July 28-30: Exhibition games.
Aug 1: 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin (Phase 4).
Aug 11: First Round begins.
Aug 25: Second Round begins.
Sept. 8: Conference Finals begin.
Sept. 22: Stanley Cup Final begins.
Oct 4: Last possible date for Stanley Cup to be awarded.
The NHL set expectations for regular updates regarding positive COVID-19 tests. Can the league navigate all of those bumps in the road to October, mid-November training camps, and a 2020-21 season that may start as early as Dec. 1?
We’ll have to wait and see.
More on NHL return to play, CBA extension, COVID-19:
- Full schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers
- Hockey is back: NHL, NHLPA ratify CBA, return to play agreement
- Salary cap to stay flat at $81.5 million
- Power rankings: training camp storylines
- Several players opt out of NHL return to play
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.