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We are two weeks removed from the suspension of the NHL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty about the 2020 season continues as the league announced its first official case of the virus.
On Tuesday the league announced that an unnamed player for the Ottawa Senators tested positive for coronavirus and that the team has taken precautions, including having all players and coaches self-isolate.
This is the first (and so far only) case of an NHL player testing positive for the virus. It is believed by the team that the player picked it up sometime during their California road trip in which they were in town for five days and played games against the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks before returning home to Ottawa.
It should be noted that their game against San Jose went ahead despite Santa Clara County health officials making recommendations against large public gatherings at the Sharks arena.
Despite this news, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is still hopeful that the season can eventually continue and states that the league is looking at every possible contingency. Talking to Sportsnet 590, Bettman said:
“We’re looking out in the calendar to see, ‘Well what’s the last day we could be playing under other scenarios?’ And then backing it up, and what are options in the timeframe that’s available. And we’re doing all sorts of modeling, whether it’s completing the existing regular season as is and then a full playoffs, or whether or not, based on time constraints, we’re going to have to make adjustments and do something different, novel, creative. And we’re constantly reanalyzing and reworking that.”
Bettman went on to say that, ultimately, it’s not up to them. The NHL doesn’t make the call to say that the pandemic has ended and, even if the NHL and it’s players are ready to continue the season, it will be up to health officials of the highest degree from Canada and the United States to make the call that it is safe to continue the season.
As of yet, the NHL has yet to officially announce a date in which it would be impossible to continue the season.
Moving forward, however, both Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly, have every intention of heading into the 2020-21 season at full capacity; beginning the season on time and without having to shorten it. Daly was quoted as saying that one definite for the league is to not do anything “around a resumption of play this season that will impact our ability to have a full season next year.”
Following those sentiments, Bettman told ESPN that, when it comes to the current 2019-20 season, the league can go “later than we’ve ever gone” under the circumstances. He continued by saying:
“What we want to make sure of is that we don’t do anything from this season that might impact next season having the normalcy it’s supposed to have.”
As of right now, of all major sports, the NHL is listed with the second-best odds to return to action after only the MLB, who suspended spring training and sent all players home. Currently, the odds of the NHL returning to the ice by June 1 are +300 for ‘YES’ and -500 for ‘NO’.
The odds sit at +120 that we won’t see any NHL action until the 2020-21 season begins.
The league officially suspended the season on March 12, 2020.
Thus far, only one case of COVID-19 has been confirmed within the league. An unnamed player of the Ottawa Senators is the only known case.
Gary Bettman is the commissioner of the NHL and has been since 1993.
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