NHL Moves On With Return Phases As 11 Players Get COVID-19
Eleven NHLers "tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the shutdown of multiple training groups both inside and outside of team facilities," according to Russo & Mirtle of THE ATHLETIC. A source on Saturday said that the league is "not considering pushing back" the Phase 3 start date on July 10 "at this point." But given many players are not taking part in Phase 2 and are not yet in their NHL cities, and the players have not yet voted to agree to return to play, it "would seem to make that Phase 3 date more difficult to hit." One Western Conference player on Friday said, "Guys are not happy. This is why we better have a full player vote and not just an executive board vote. But I'm not convinced [NHLPA Exec Dir] Don [Fehr] is going to allow that because he knows there's so many of us on the fence. That's why I think the league was trying to be hush-hush on these positive tests. In my opinion, no way we play." Several player agents last week "indicated that more and more of their players are troubled by the idea of returning to play in a hub city environment." One prominent agent estimated that 35-40% of players "were on the fence" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/20).
POTENTIAL ISSUES: In Toronto, Michael Traikos wrote this is the NHL's "worst fear" because this is what "could prevent the season from concluding -- never mind reopening in a few weeks." Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews, who has tested positive for COVID-19, is the "best player in the biggest market in the NHL," and right now, he also is the "poster boy for what can go wrong if the NHL comes back before it's safe to do so" (TORONTO SUN, 6/21).