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NHL players begin opting out of return

Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic is the first to say he won't play when the season resumes, citing family reasons because of the coronavirus.
In this Oct. 31, 2019, file photo, Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic faces the Predators in Nashville, Tenn. The Flames won't have Hamonic for the resumption of the season after he decided to opt out for family reasons.
In this Oct. 31, 2019, file photo, Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic faces the Predators in Nashville, Tenn. The Flames won't have Hamonic for the resumption of the season after he decided to opt out for family reasons. [ MARK ZALESKI | AP ]
Published Jul. 11, 2020
Updated Jul. 12, 2020

In the aftermath of a deal being struck to resume the NHL season, players have begun opting not to return this year, some citing health concerns over the coronavirus.

Oilers defenseman Mike Green and Canucks forward Sven Baertschi on Saturday joined Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic among players choosing not to participate in the expanded 24-team playoffs.

Also in that group: Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner and Bruins depth defenseman Steve Kampfer.

Green, Hamonic and Kampfer said they wouldn’t play because of family health concerns.

“Due to the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and after much consideration, I’ve decided for deeply personal family health reasons not to participate in the return to play,” Green said in a statement released by the Oilers.

“This has been a hard decision knowing I’m going to miss the opportunity to compete in the playoffs with a Stanley Cup contender. I wish the best of luck to the guys, and I appreciate the Edmonton Oilers support.”

Hamonic was the first player to publicly choose not to play in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Hamonic’s daughter was hospitalized last year with respiratory issues, and he and his wife also have a baby boy.

“I wish I could lace up my skates and be out there battling, blocking a shot and helping my team win, but my family has and always will come first,” Hamonic said.

“Being my little kids’ dad every day is the most important job I have. I love this game and my team. This is a decision that is extremely hard for me to make.”

Flames general manager Brad Treliving said, “While we will miss Travis in our lineup, we understand and respect his decision.”

Kampfer, who played 10 games with the Bruins this season, said he made his decision because his wife and 1-year-old son have congenital heart defects that could create complications were they to contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“This was one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make,” Kampfer wrote in a Twitter post. “We have taken (COVID-19) very seriously. Family will always be my priority.”

Training camps are set to open Monday, which also is the deadline for players to determine whether to opt out of playing without penalty.

Related: Lightning’s Steven Stamkos has a new injury entering training camp

Postseason play is scheduled to begin Aug. 1 in two hub cities, Toronto and Edmonton.

No details were available about the decision by Baertschi, who spent much of the regular season in the minors and is under contract through 2020-21.

“Sven informed us late (Friday) that he has chosen to opt out of the NHL return to play program,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. “It was a difficult decision but ultimately one we respect and understand.”

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Stars: Defenseman Roman Polak is not on the roster for the start of training camp, and a team spokesman said he won’t be attending at this time. Polak is a pending free agent who last month agreed to a deal to play in his native Czech Republic next season and told reporters in that country he wasn’t planning on returning to the NHL if play resumed.

League takes over injury report: Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league will take over injury and illness disclosures from teams as a way of protecting player privacy. In regards to the coronavirus, the league will announce positive player test results but not identify the players or their teams. “Medical privacy is important in this process,” Daly said. “Having said that, we understand as a league we have an obligation of some transparency with respect to the (coronavirus) in particular.” Teams are prohibited from releasing any injury or illness information, Daly said.

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