Phase 2

Two NHL players tested positive for COVID-19 during first week of training camps

The NHL announced that there were two positive COVID-19 test results from the first five days of training camps (July 13-17 stretch of “Phase 3”). The league added that both players self-isolated and followed CDC/Health Canada protocols. The NHL didn’t share the names of the two players, nor their teams.

Last week, the NHL announced that it was aware of 43 players who tested positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2. So, since June 8, the NHL is aware of 45 players who tested positive for COVID-19.

Among other things, the league’s press release provides another reminder of the sheer scale of this return-to-play undertaking. From July 13-17, the NHL administered 2,618 COVID-19 tests. Phase 2 required about 6,000 COVID-19 tests.

Here’s the NHL release:

Second week of NHL training camps represent big week for COVID-19 testing

As daunting as this process has been, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug shares insight into what could be an especially pivotal week for the NHL’s return-to-play process. Rishaug details that players could be left behind from team charters if they test positive on Wednesday or Thursday of this week, depending upon how things play out. If that happens, a player might be able to enter the Edmonton or Toronto hub cities later on, yet it’s unclear how that quarantine and transition process would work out.

With Rishaug mentioning the need for three negative tests for players, one can imagine how the COVID-19 tests can pile up. One can only guess how many tests NHL teams will go through this week with the hopes of exhibition games starting as early as Tuesday, July 28.

PHT will monitor this situation, and other training camp details, as the league hopes to make this return happen. Check out the league’s latest details regarding the exhibition schedule, and some of the start dates and times for games for the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, in this post.

More on NHL return to play, CBA extension, COVID-19:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL: 43 players tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 (June 8)

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:

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:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL: 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began (June 8)

NHL announces 26 players tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began
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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:

 

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:

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:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Lightning re-open training facilities five days after COVID-19 outbreak

Lightning re-open training facilities after COVID-19 outbreak
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“The Bolts are back,” whether it’s a good idea or not. Five days after closing facilities upon learning that three players and multiple staff members tested positive for COVID-19, the Tampa Bay Lightning re-opened its two training facilities for Phase 2.

Considering other news, it’s an uncomfortable look.

The Lightning re-opened facilities on Wednesday. Just yesterday, Florida reported a troubling 3,200 new COVID-19 cases (and more than 3,000 deaths). Reports indicate that Wednesday’s news is even worse, with more than 5,000 new cases.

Lightning, other NHL teams trying to squeeze in training amid COVID-19

As awkward as it seems to come back this soon, and amid surging cases, it’s also true that the Lightning are trying to squeeze things into a small window. For the Lightning and the NHL, the overriding hope is that training camps (aka Phase 3) will begin on July 10. That doesn’t leave much room for error … or outbreaks.

With every bump in the road, players (and coaches) are likely to feel less and less willing to roll the dice. An anonymous veteran player said “guys aren’t happy,” according to a report by The Athletic’s James Mirtle and Michael Russo (sub required).

That player points out that July 10 can also feel like a long time. After all, there would be many chances for other COVID-19 outbreaks, both among players and the general population.

“This just makes no sense to me,” The veteran player said, via The Athletic. “Right from the return-to-play format announcement and this Phase 2 thing that none of us have to be in, they’ve put the cart before the horse. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and they’re shocked there’s an outbreak? And it’s a long ways off to July 10, so you can’t tell me more and more guys won’t be testing positive as more and more guys start to get back to town.”

The Lightning and other NHL teams face plenty of obstacles before it can pull off this return to play. Despite this COVID-19 surge, the Lightning are forging ahead by opening their facilities back up — for now.

NHL TEAMS, PLAYERS TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Report: Auston Matthews tests positive for COVID-19

Auston Matthews tests positive for COVID-19 Toronto Maple Leafs Arizona
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Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews tested positive for COVID-19, according to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. Friday continues to be a bad news for the NHL and other sports regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, as the Lightning confirmed that three players and a number of staffers also recently tested positive.

Simmons references two “NHL sources outside Toronto” for the breaking news regarding Matthews testing positive for COVID-19. This makes sense, as Matthews has been staying in Arizona. (More on that in a moment.) Simmons reports that members of the Arizona Coyotes may also have tested positive for COVID-19.

Frederik Andersen had also been staying with Matthews in Arizona. Simmons reports that Andersen tested negative for COVID-19 and is no longer staying with Matthews, though.

The Maple Leafs responded to the report later on Friday. For the most part, the Maple Leafs basically provided a “no comment.” That said, the phrasing “a person’s medical information in this regard is private” feels pretty pointed:

Maple Leafs statement on Auston Matthews COVID-19 report
via the Toronto Maple Leafs

While COVID-19 is halting such matters, the pauses seem temporary at the moment.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie indicated that the Lightning will attempt to resume Phase 2 if others don’t test positive. Simmons reports that Matthews is going into self quarantine with the hope of being able to travel and participate in Maple Leafs training camp around July 10.

Auston Matthews tests positive for COVID-19 in Arizona, a state hit hard

It’s worth circling back to the point that Matthews is located in Arizona.

Much like Florida, Arizona is a state that’s currently dealing with a troubling spike in COVID-19 cases. On Friday alone, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,246 new cases, and 41 deaths. This bumps Arizona’s total cases to 46,689 and total deaths to 1,312.

Despite all of this, Arizona and other states attempt to go “back to normal.” And, at least for now, the NHL seems committed to trying to return to play with an ambitious 24-team, two-hub city playoff format.

Seeing a star of Auston Matthews’ stature reportedly test positive for COVID-19 makes it all seem that much tougher to pull off. But we’ll see.

NHL announces 11 total positive tests

Meanwhile, the league is apparently taking over announcing any positive tests. On Friday, a release stated that since Phase 2 opened over 200 player have been tested and 11 came back positive.

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.

OTHER NHL TEAMS, PLAYERS TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.