It was not a good day for sports, but especially the NHL Return to Play on Friday. Not only did the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies have numerous positive tests, but positive COVID-19 tests forced the Tampa Bay Lightning to shutter their practice facility and suspend their voluntary skating programs as part of Phase 2.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly corresponded with our sister site, Boston Hockey Now, on Friday night as the sports world took stock of the news, and some openly wondered if the return to play efforts should be abandoned.
“Will depend on circumstances,” Daly told the Hockey Now family via email. “But we are proceeding on the basis that one or several positives may very well happen, and that alone won’t affect the ability to continue with the tournament.”
The positive tests and perseverance represent a shift in society and sports.
The three Tampa Bay players and two staff members who tested positive were not seriously ill. Three were asymptomatic, and two had low-grade fevers. In a statement late Friday evening, the NHL confirmed more than Tampa Bay Lightning players have tested positive.
“Since NHL clubs were permitted to open their facilities on June 8, all players entering these facilities for voluntary training have been subject to mandatory testing for COVID-19. Through today, in excess of 200 players have undergone multiple testing. A total of 11 players have tested positive.
All players who have tested positive are self-isolating and are following CDC and Health Canada protocols. The NHL will provide weekly updates on the number of tests administered to players and the results of those tests.
The league will not be providing information regarding the identity of those players or their clubs.”
Also, on Friday, Toronto columnist Steve Simmons reported that Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews tested positive, as well.
The NHL is pushing forward with plans for Phase 3 training camps, which begin on July 10, and Phase 4 Qualifying Round and NHL playoff games, which will start a few weeks following the beginning of camps.