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NHL tells players to self quarantine; discuss further steps for season

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With the season on pause, the NHL instructs players to self quarantine and discusses possible future steps on the road to playing again.

via Pittsburgh Penguins

A day after announcing they were putting the 2019-20 season on pause, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly released a memo, outlining directions for all players to undergo a self quarantine period and discussed future steps the league will take in hopes of resuming the campaign if that time comes.

Starting with directions for the players, Daly said the league has instructed all players to put themselves under a self quarantine in their own homes for at least a week. The quarantine should take place in the NHL which they play, unless a player’s immediate has permanent residence somewhere in North America.

Following a week of self quarantine by players, the league hopes they can reopen team practice facilities where players can skate in small groups if they wish. If the situation progresses enough to the point the NHL believes they can resume the season, the NHL will conduct a mini-training camp of sorts where teams can hold full practices to prepare themselves for competition.

Per Aaron Portzline of The Athletic:

During the “self-quarantine” period, NHL players are urged to work out in their homes — “not in a public gym,” the memo makes clear — or to exercise outside, while maintaining at least six feet of distance from others.

After the “week or so” of self-quarantine, the league said it hopes to re-open its facilities so that players can resume their workouts, followed by a “training camp period” in which team practices could resume.

“It is important that players maintain their personal fitness and readiness to resume play to the extent reasonably possible,” the memo states, while adding, “(the league) will ensure that players are afforded sufficient time to resume skating and game preparation activities prior to any resumption of play.”

Players have been ordered to stay in their club’s city unless their immediate family is living elsewhere in North America. A player is required to inform the general manager if he wants to “self-quarantine” in a home outside the club’s city.

As of Friday, no NHL player has tested positive for COVID-19, but not every player has been tested due to a lack of testing supplies at the moment. Should a player develop symptoms at any time, the NHL instructed the player(s) to contact their team doctors right away.

One issue presented with putting players into self quarantine and keeping them away from team facilities was what to do with injured players needing treatment. Daly clarified that point as well in the memo, stating that players on IR can visit the team facility to receive their prescribed treatment as the season remains suspended.

These steps taken by the NHL assure players can still be paid throughout the pause period, with three pay period left this season. Players base contracts are only paid during the season, with any playoff pay coming via contract bonuses.

As for the when the season will restart remains 100% up in the air and the league is asking team officials to refrain from commenting or speculating on when play could potentially resume. Based on feelings from people around the league, the belief seems to be that for teams currently outside the playoff picture, they may have played their final game of the 2019-20, pending how the NHL does playoff positioning should it come to that.

Per Portzline:

Finally, the league’s memo requests that club officials “refrain from commenting publicly on, or speculating about, what approaches the league might take in response to the dynamics of the current situation.”

It is widely believed that the NHL regular-season is now finished for clubs with no chance of making the playoffs. But how the league proceeds on the other side of the “pause” — who makes the playoffs, how seeding is determined, etc. — could depend on how long the “pause” lasts.

The most optimistic outlook surrounding a possible resumption of the 2019-20 season has play suspended somewhere in the 2-4 week range, but given the continued rise of COVID-19 cases in North America (a number experts expect to keep rising in the short term) that outlook seems more like wishful thinking.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Jason Kindrachuk spoke with The Athletic and his outlook for this NHL season is much more grim than what the NHL is letting with hopes of resuming play.

SPOILER: The good doctor doesn’t think we will be seeing hockey anytime soon, especially not in the window the NHL is hoping for.

Per Dr. Kindrachuk speaking to The Athletic:

I think that they’re being very optimistic in terms of their timeline for what they’re hoping for. I don’t think we’re quite yet at the stage with this pandemic where we have any idea of how long it’s going to take for us to get this thing contained in the install transmission chain. I understand why they’re hoping that they’re still going be able to move ahead, but I think we’re far away from that point yet.

I think my best answer for that is what we’re starting to see from our own conferences. We’re starting to cancel our conferences out to June so I think that gives some indication from the side of researchers. I think people don’t want to give a false impression that we think that this will be dealt with fairly quickly.

You do want to be optimistic and say we can get a handle on things. We know that in China — again, they used some pretty draconian measures — but they were able to get this virus contained and they’re continually seeing decreases in cases. And we’re only 11 weeks into this pandemic. So I think that there is a potential to see things change fairly quickly. But I don’t think we have any idea what kind of trends we’re seeing. With looking at Italy, as well as what we’re starting to see happening in Germany and France, we’re seeing increases in cases and continual increases. And I think the situation there is going to get worse before it gets better with North America. Watching the trends, with what we’ve seen in the US, I think we’re not at the peak yet. It is still spreading. Canada is at the start of that — we still have a chance to limit it.

It’s throwing some cold water on the hope that we may see hockey sooner rather than later, but I think everyone had some assumption that the 2-4 week window for resuming play was always a shot in the dark given how the virus continues to spread and the number of cases continues to rise.

This is all good information to have and hearing it from an expert in the field of infectious diseases and how they spread lends more credence to the idea that hockey (and sports in general) could be dormant for longer than we hope.

All we can do is sit and wait to see how everything plays out, which is no different than what the players, coaches, general managers, and everyone else are doing at the moment.