The Montreal Canadiens ramp up to the 24-team NHL return which officially begins Monday became more tumultuous Sunday night when league sources told the Athletic that at least three Montreal players tested positive for COVID-19.
The news comes after defenseman Karl Alzner exercised his right within the new CBA agreement to opt-out of the return to play. Montreal goalie Carey Price appeared to support such a move last month and sounded tentative about his own participation in a video conference call last month.
Also last month, NHL analyst Pierre McGuire, who is well connected in the Montreal scene, told 93-7 the Fan that he felt Price was leaning against playing.
Adding to the Montreal issues, second-line center Max Domi and the team will wait seven to 10 days before making a decision if Domi will participate in the return. Domi is at an increased risk of severe effects because he has Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac’s Disease.
The health conditions put Domi in a higher risk category.
“Considering Max’s health condition, both parties have agreed to take this responsible approach and to take this time to evaluate the ongoing situation, in order to make the best decision for Max’s health at the end of this period,” read Montreal GM Marc Bergevin’s statement.
Monreal has the fewest points of the 24 teams in the return to play and was 10 points out of wild-card position when the NHL season was paused on March 12. The Phase 4 Qualifying Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins begins Aug. 1. Here is the full schedule.
Per NHL policy, the names of the players were not released, and per PHN policy the names will not be reported.
Per Phase 3/4 protocols, players who test positive must quarantine for as many as 14 days and may not return to play until they are symptom-free for three days and test negative twice in 48 hours.
It is unknown if the players experienced symptoms or were part of the growing number of people who tested positive but were asymptomatic. There have been conflicting reports between the CDC and the WHO about the ability of asymptomatic individuals’ ability to pass along COVID-19.
So far, 26 NHL players tested positive for the coronavirus in Phase 2 testing and Phase 3 medical exams. The St. Louis Blue and Tampa Bay Lightning each temporarily closed their practice facilities during Phase 2 because multiple players tested positive.
Montreal was also one of the last NHL teams to re-open their facilities for Phase 2. The team cited a lack of demand, as only two players were in Montreal for the early June transition to Phase 2.