NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took offense at the idea that the league, teams or players may not respect or attempt to opt out of the COVID-19 protocol, which will be an integral part of the playoff organization of the Stanley Cup in Toronto and Edmonton.
In particular, any player whose test is positive must isolate himself and be removed from the team’s activities until he is found free from coronavirus.
“I think the question – don’t push it too far – involves a level of dishonesty and a lack of integrity (which we do) and the people we serve would categorically reject,” Bettman said in a teleconference on Saturday. “The fact is that all of us, and all of those we serve, understand the importance and seriousness of what we are dealing with.
“And I don’t think anyone will want to be involved in games with the truth, the facts and the reality of what we are all facing. “
Bettman, assistant commissioner Bill Daly, head of the players association Don Fehr and his special assistant, former player Mathieu Schneider, came together for a video conference to extol their double achievement: a collective agreement coupled with a back to the game which will see training camps open Monday for 24 teams and the Stanley Cup is now up for grabs.
The protocol is a big reason why the federal and provincial governments allow the tournament, with teams enjoying exemptions from the 14-day quarantine rules that otherwise apply when someone crosses the border into Canada. A player who tests positive or has symptoms of the contagious virus must be isolated from all others until he has passed two tests, as well as a doctor’s evaluation.
In the midst of a pandemic with more than 600 players and team officials ready to descend to Toronto and an equal number to Edmonton, confidence is an issue.
NHL players are known to have suffered injuries and hidden illnesses with the Stanley Cup at stake. Doctors and other observers wondered if the teams and the league even followed their own protocols for diagnosing concussions.
“If the concussions were contagious, I think the players would have a different opinion,” said Schneider. “And I think the guys certainly understand the idea that if they’re not honest with the symptoms, or how they may feel, they are putting their entire team at risk. “
NHL officials recently announced that 35 players have tested positive for COVID-19, without further details, and they have no plans to release the names of those who tested positive in the future. They will also refrain from announcing any injuries during the playoffs, to hide if the players have COVID-19 or another illness.
“I think the interests of medical confidentiality are important, and we will protect them,” said Daly.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he was “very optimistic about respecting protocols. I think they also understand that if they don’t, the whole tournament could fall apart. There is a lot at stake here. “
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