With the NHL season on hold indefinitely because of coronavirus concerns, players have been instructed to remain at home in their team’s city and avoid practice facilities and crowded places. Within the next two weeks, they could be allowed to return and skate and work out in small groups.
“What we now asked our clubs and our players to do is to go home, isolate to the extent possible for the next few days,” commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday. “How many days exactly, we’re working on with the medical people. And then we’ll be looking to progress in terms of activities once we get a handle on whether or not anybody in the short term is going to test positive.”
The NHL and Players Association laid out specific guidelines and sent them to players and teams in a memo read reported by the Associated Press.
The memo states that team facilities are currently closed to players, except those requiring treatment for what the memo refers to as “disabling injuries.” The next step, based on health officials’ approval, would be opening the facilities and allowing players to skate and work out in small groups.
Also, players who want to self-quarantine away from their NHL home city because their family lives elsewhere, such as players traded at last month’s deadline, can do that after advising their team of it.
Idealistically, union executive director Don Fehr said, facilities would open to players by next week, though variables that could push back that time line.
There was no timetable on when games might resume.
Bettman said he remained optimistic about resuming play and eventually awarding the Stanley Cup.
“That would be the goal,” Bettman said in a phone interview with the Associated Press and the NHL’s website. “Health, safety, well-being of the NHL family, especially and including our fans, is most important. If the business considerations and the money were the only thing, then we and a bunch of others would keep playing.”
Bettman and Fehr independently said they were not aware of any player having tested positive for the coronavirus.
Hurricanes broadcaster John Forslund was feeling fine and had not been tested but was self-isolating after using a hotel room previously occupied by someone who tested positive for the virus, technically known as COVID-19, the team said. The NBA’s Utah Jazz, who had players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell test positive, were at the hotel just before the Hurricanes.
Bettman said it is not the NHL’s independent call when to resume play and did not rule out playing games in empty arenas.