NHL coronavirus restart plans intensify and new host cities emerge


The NHL and NHLPA are intensifying communications as the league advances by developing plans to reopen the season if it is safe to do so.

Slap Shots has learned that a return to play committee has been established by the league and that the union has held two teleconferences in the past three days with regularly scheduled “meetings”.

Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and Senior Vice-Presidents Colin Campbell and Steve Hatze Petros represent the NHL, while the NHLPA is represented by Don Fehr, Mathieu Schneider, General Counsel Don Zavelo, Divisional Representative Steve Webb, and active players John Tavares , Connor McDavid, James van Riemsdyk and Ron Hainsey. League and union medical counselors are added to the calls if necessary.

We were told that the discussions have so far not been as much on the details as on the concepts. But the details will determine not only whether the NHL can develop a pragmatic plan in the middle of a pandemic, but whether players will accept it.

The credibility of the NHL will be at stake if the game resumes, because it will not only be the players who will trust the league, but also the public. Stopping after restarting would likely be more damaging to the sport than simply canceling the rest of 2019-20.

The same would apply to a scenario in which multiple players should be replaced by AHL call-ups from extended lists of 30 players after a positive test. If the NHL wants to do this, it will have to present a credible product.

Assistant Commissioner Daly told TSN’s Ryan Rishaug on Friday evening: “It all depends on the facts and the totality of the circumstances, but no, we don’t think that one positive test, or even several positive tests [would] necessarily close everything. “

Daly later told Slap Shots in an email exchange: “Of course, those who test positive will be immediately removed from the mix. “

When asked if he could clarify his statements during the interview, Daly said, “It all depends on specific circumstances. I am not going to go through a million different and completely hypothetical fact schemes.

“I am perfectly comfortable with our level of knowledge and the experts we have retained to make the right decisions. “

Ultimately, decisions will be made by local governing bodies and public health agencies. For example, the league had explored Calgary and Edmonton as potential centralized host sites as part of its four-arena plan, but on Thursday, Alberta’s chief medical officer reiterated that gatherings of 15 or more would be prohibited until at least September.

Sources say Toronto and Columbus are the main contenders for becoming two of the host cities. We were told that the plan would be for all teams to hold training camps up to three weeks in duration at their central locations.

This means that players from clubs advancing deep into the playoffs after the hypothetical scheduled regular season completion would be separated from society – and, more specifically, from their families – for almost four months.

Although the league wishes to divide the quadrants into divisions, this may not be possible if the geography is taken into account. For example, if Toronto hosts the Atlantic Division, it would be relatively convenient for the Leafs, Senators, Canadiens, Bruins, Red Wings and Sabers, but not at all for Lightning and the Panthers. If a southern city is chosen as the host site, Florida teams could be assigned to that location.

But that is secondary, as is the fact that the league wants to open a store in Canada largely on the basis of the currency conversion rate under which the Canadian dollar is now 71 cents against the US dollar. Costs matter.

At least since Saturday, the league – including the chief medical officer, Dr. Winne Meeuwisse, has a doctorate in clinical epidemiology – and the union had not addressed a myriad of problems. One of the most critical aspects of the risks posed by underlying medical conditions could be faced in a reopening scenario.

Kaapo Kakko, for example, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease five or six years ago. Max Domi of Montreal and Luke Kunin of Minnesota have also been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with type 1 diabetes are not necessarily more likely to get COVID-19, but they may face worse results.

Brian Boyle, of course, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2017. He has been in complete remission since October 2018, but may face a higher risk than the general population. There are other players with autoimmune issues. This is a topic on the Palestinian Authority list that needs to be addressed.

Testing will be an issue. How will the tests be administered to each traveling team of up to 60 people, how often will the tests be done and how long will it take to get results? The underlying question, of course, is how does the NHL buy not only enough test kits, but also the necessary swabs, reagents and labs?

These questions remain to be answered.

The “day in life” route by which the players would be quarantined has not yet been presented to the union. The idea is to keep the circle as tight as possible, but that would involve everyone involved in the effort – players, staff, on-ice officials, off-ice officials, NHL staff, arena maneuvers, drivers buses, food preparers, wait staff, and others – are said to be quarantined in a hotel for weeks, leaving only their heads at the rink.

What about players / staff members from whom other loved ones give birth? What about players / staff members planning summer weddings? What if a family member gets sick? What about Europeans returning from their respective countries of origin? What about existing travel restrictions? What about the many topics that I’m sure I’ve overlooked?

These are all topics on the Return to Play Committee agenda.

Reopening the league will be a huge task. Each “i” must be dotted, each “t” must be crossed out. Because if the NHL reopens, it will be once hockey will be a life and death proposition.


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