It’s probably not surprising that there are outbreaks of COVID-19 as NHL teams have started to gather for informal practices. And it’s less surprising that the two teams involved are the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Vegas Golden Knights. Both cities have been huge hot spots for the virus, with Ohio particularly hard hit. The state reported nearly 11,000 new cases on Wednesday and the death rate hovers around 1,000 for November, double the number for October.
Canada’s world junior team was forced to remain in isolation for two weeks after two players and two staff tested positive. The Quebec League ran in spurts all season and the Alberta and Manitoba junior leagues had to suspend operations. And, of course, the Ontario and WHL seasons haven’t even started yet. There have been pockets of epidemics throughout the National Football League and this has caused a number of postponements, not to mention uncertainty over whether or not the matches will be played.
If the NHL does manage to strike a fair deal with the players on return-to-play terms one day, it’s pretty clear that the second wave of the virus will be much more difficult for the league to play its season than the first. . Nothing that is happening inside and outside the hockey world should come as a shock to anyone. It’s also pretty clear that the league will need to develop contingency plans to deal with outbreaks as they occur throughout the season.
Does that mean it will be impossible for the NHL to come back to play? Not if protocols are strictly followed, said one of Canada’s top infectious disease specialists. Dr Isaac Bogoch was an advisor to the NHL Players Association on the return to play that saw the league complete the Stanley Cup playoffs and he said the outbreaks did not necessarily mean the league couldn’t get there. again under different circumstances. But we will have to show enormous vigilance. And when the players are at the rink, that probably won’t be the problem. It is when they go out into their communities where they will have to be hyper-vigilant.
“There is a lot of infection in community settings right now in many parts of the United States and around the world,” Bogoch said. “And gamers, like anyone else, can certainly get this infection in community settings. And if people are playing hockey or getting together in any setting, you can still bring this infection to those other places and infect other people. The rinks are set up with systems to really ensure that public health measures are respected, there are obviously 20 hours a day when the players are not on the rinks and this is a reminder that everyone must do their own thing. set out to fundamentally stick to the public health measures that we know will ensure the safety of individuals and teams.
The NHL has proven during the summer bubble that it will do its part to conduct regular testing and make their sites as safe as possible for participants. Judging by the league’s success the first time around, that won’t be a problem. And another thing the NHL has going for it is that its players are remarkably compliant. They bought into the concept of the bubble from the start and while it would be an exaggeration to say everyone embraced it, the players were very close to the league. There is no reason to believe the players would be any different this time around. But they’ll be around other people who might not be so careful and that’s where risk comes into the equation. And it intensifies in hockey, an indoor environment where people cannot avoid being close to each other. The league knows where these spots are on the ice and makes them as safe as possible. Those who manage this disease always talk about avoiding the Three Cs – narrow, crowded and confined spaces.
“By truly adhering to the fundamentals of public health and outbreak management, we can run the season relatively smoothly,” Bogoch said. “Either way, this virus is going to permeate some aspect of our life and with the right planning we can certainly mitigate that as much as possible.”