TORONTO, Canada: Jason Spezza’s confidence in the NHL returning has not been shaken by word of 11 fellow players testing positive for the coronavirus.
Given his involvement in NHL Players’ Association talks, the veteran Toronto forward knew from doctors’ input there would be positive test results in hockey just as there have been in other sports as group workouts ramp up across North America.
Those very well may continue to happen with training camps scheduled to open July 10, yet deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed recently the league and NHLPA are not considering putting teams in quarantined “bubbles” for those mandatory sessions. Instead, players are being instructed to stay home when not at the rink, with the hope that frequent testing and health protocols will prevent any outbreaks before, hopefully, games resume in two “hub” cities in late July.
“I’m pretty confident that once we get into hub cities, we’ll be able to do a good job of keeping it out,” Spezza said. “I think getting there is going to be the challenge, and that’s where it takes a little bit of discipline for us as players to make sure we don’t kind of derail
The league and players are still working to finalize a return-to-play agreement that would entail a 24-team playoff to award the Stanley Cup. It’s understood that players, coaches and staff would be quarantined from the general public for the duration of the playoffs and tested regularly.
Until arriving in one of those cities as early as July 23 or 24, players and their families are still out in the real world and face the risk of exposure.
“You have a whole bunch of people in close proximity to each other for prolonged periods of time, they may be traveling together exposed to other individuals that you don’t know who they’ve been exposed to,” Carolinas Medical Center medical director of infection prevention Katie Passaretti said.
“Any time you’re bringing groups together and then sending them back out into the world, there’s potential for further spread if one of those individuals was asymptotically infected or early in the stages of symptomatic infection.”