Masks More Prevalent, But Not Universal, As NHL Returns To Ice
Goalies "weren't the only ones wearing masks" yesterday as the 24 NHL teams still playing "hit the ice, en masse, in the first full glimpse of hockey's return," according to Wawrow & Walker of the AP. Masked equipment managers "patrolled the benches," while 70-year-old Predators President of Hockey Operations & GM David Poile "wore one while watching the Predators practice from a private suite." Stars interim coach Rick Bowness, 65, "wore a mask while observing practice from an empty bench." Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin said, "On the ice is [the] same rules [as] what we have before. But soon as you step off the ice in the locker room, everybody [has] to wear a mask. It's kind of weird, but I'm pretty sure we're going to get used to it" (AP, 7/13). In Calgary, Kristen Anderson notes the entire Bruins coaching staff "wore face coverings during their skate." However, Flames interim coach Geoff Ward "explained that because it is not mandatory and it would hinder his ability to properly execute practice, he’ll go mask free" (CALGARY HERALD, 7/14).
POSITIVE RATE UNDER 5%: In Dallas, Matthew DeFranks reports the NHL yesterday said that 30 players out of more than 600 who "participated in Phase 2 tested positive for COVID-19," with an additional 13 players "not involved in Phase 2" testing positive as well. The NHL "does not identify the players who tested positive, or their teams" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/14). THE ATHLETIC's James Mirtle notes keeping names out of the news "may be far more difficult now that the NHL’s return to play has entered Phase 3, with an eye to playing games in a little more than two weeks’ time." Players at the 24 training camps across North America "will have cameras on them every day going forward," and when someone "isn’t on the ice, the speculation will turn to COVID-19, even if they have a broken ankle, concussion, or other affliction." Even the question of "whether or not to report when teams and players test positive is a precarious one, with ethical and privacy dilemmas coming into play" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/14).
CHALLENGES STILL ABOUND: In Pittsburgh, Mike DeFabo reports nine Penguins players "were held out of the first training camp practice as a precaution after a possible secondary exposure to COVID-19." The absences underscored the "two-prong challenge that the NHL and the Penguins are embarking on on this strange road to the Stanley Cup." DeFabo: "How do you minimize the risk of the virus and keep a workforce healthy enough to complete its objective?" There are questions about whether the league "keeps its bubble tight enough to ensure" the Stanley Cup is handed out (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/14).
MATTHEWS CONFIRMS DIAGNOSIS: Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews yesterday confirmed reports that he tested positive for coronavirus, but said it "didn’t hinder my training." He said he felt "pretty much asymptomatic." Matthews: "I felt for the most part pretty normal for the two weeks. I did my quarantine and I’m healthy now.” In Toronto, Kevin McGran notes it is "remarkable that he spoke about it at all" with the league not releasing the names of players who test positive. Additionally, the Maple Leafs "cut Matthews’ question-and-answer about COVID-19 from the audio portion of the interview housed on the team’s website" (TORONTO STAR, 7/14).
WHY IS IT A BIG DEAL? In Edmonton, David Staples writes if a player "does have COVID-19, I don't see it as any kind of stigma." Staples: "The disease is around. People get it. Such is life right now. I'm not sure why the NHL is being so tight with this information, but that's between them and the players. For me, if a player has it, that's simply a fact, not a big deal. It's nothing to hide, nothing to get overly worked up about, and certainly nothing to be ashamed about" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 7/14).