NHL: Will COVID put a Hamper on Return to Play?

Amalie Arena, Home of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Amalie Arena, Home of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The NHL is seeing an alarming number of COVID cases

As the NHL attempts to dive into phase two, there is an alarming number of COVID cases popping up. Will this threaten the future of Return to Play?

We knew this was coming. The NHL now has more and more positive cases of COVID-19. This is all stemming from players returning to their host cities and going through the phase two protocols of the league’s Return to Play plan.

It is no real surprise that there have been players who have tested positive. The first major group has been the Tampa Bay Lightning who have had a mix of both players and staffers test positive less than two weeks into the optional phase:

They aren’t alone either. Since the league has begun enforcing the new phase two protocols in constant testing in order to allow players to return to the ice and practice in team facilities, there have been many reports about players, from various teams, who have tested positive.

There are also other teams like the Carolina Hurricanes have yet to join the rest of the league in adopting the Phase two policies and reopen their facilities. That means there might be other players who have the virus and have yet to be tested.

Naturally, most of their identities have been protected with the exception being Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The NHL quickly put out a statement about the testing and what the plan moving forward is.

Now if you are concerned with the real lack of guidance from the league with the multiple reports of players and staff testing positive, you aren’t alone. Many are beginning to question if the process works and if the “Return to Play” plan can even survive now that there is about a 5% positive test return.

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But the fact of the matter is that this is exactly how the phase two process is supposed to work. These players, now identified by their team medical professionals can now go into self-quarantine and hope that they remain asymptomatic until the virus leaves their body. That can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, but right now, we have the time.

Ideally, the number of COVID positive tests dwindles down as we approach training camp on July 10th. But that is still a moving target and it is okay to push it back further from that date if it means protecting the players and giving them the time to recover and get better or to simply stop being a threat to their teammates and be able to join them on the ice.

But why even keep going? What is the point if we are inevitably going to keep pushing the dates forward?

Lessons learned. Because whatever we learn from this plan, even if it is completely doomed, can be applied to the future of the sport. We can learn how to properly protect players, staff, and even the fans in our new reality. Until we can get a proper vaccine and establish proper herd immunity, we have to take every opportunity to learn.

Question for CC Readers: Where should the league move on from here?

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