The immediate future of the NHL season remains in limbo after the league paused play Thursday amid the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s now clear what this hiatus will look like for players.
In a memo sent to players Friday by the NHL, players were encouraged to self-quarantine by staying at home as much as possible for the next week, or until they receive additional instructions.
Players can travel to another primary residence where their family is currently living in North America or to a residence near the city where they play, but once there, they’re being asked to avoid further travel by airplane, train or other modes of public transportation as much as feasibly possible.
After this phase, the league hopes to open team facilities for players and then begin a training-camp setup that would allow teams to practice and prepare for games. The NHL recommends players do not organize their own skates at a public facility but instead work out at home or outside (while staying 6 feet away from others) but not at a public gym.
Injured players may continue to receive treatment from team medical staffs at team facilities.
By self-quarantining, the NHL believes players will be able to determine if they become sick, reduce the risk of passing the sickness on if they do have it and minimize exposure within the community to others who are sick.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told the Associated Press on Friday he was not aware of any player or NHL employee testing positive for COVID-19, an illness caused by exposure to a novel coronavirus, but he also said he couldn’t say for sure that no one is feeling ill or awaiting test results.
If a player develops symptoms — or someone at their home does or tests positive — the player is being instructed to contact his team’s medical director or head athletic trainer. Players are also being asked to reach out to their teams’ medical staffs if they come in contact with someone who has tested positive.
Bettman, who was optimistic the season would resume and the Stanley Cup would be handed out, didn’t put a timetable on how long this break could last. He said “several contingencies” are being evaluated and didn’t rule out the possibility of playing in empty arenas.
On Thursday, when the NHL season was suspended, teams had anywhere from 11 to 14 games remaining. The regular season was set to wrap on April 4, with the playoffs scheduled to start April 8.
Although it’s unclear how much — if any — of the season will be salvaged, the NHL is at least planning for players to return to action by issuing these guidelines of how to prepare while taking precautions to stay healthy during the outbreak.