NHL: Dr. Fauci Interview Sheds Possible Light on NHL Return Details

Hockey news has been tough to come by, with most of the information pertaining to whether or not the sport will return and what form it will take. So far, we know very little.

That hasn’t stopped speculation and there’s more fuel to add to that fire thanks to an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert.

Fauci was interviewed by journalist Peter Hamby for the Snapchat show GOOD LUCK AMERICA, which is a real thing, and he was asked about the potential return of Major League Baseball. His answer is being taken as a general approach to all professional sports, which makes it somewhat pertinent here.

“There’s a way of doing that: Nobody comes to the stadium,” Fauci said. “Put (the players) in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. Have them tested every week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family and just let them play the season out.”

The basic thrust is that a return to sports is possible with no fans. That’s pretty understandable and seems to reflect the conventional wisdom on the subject, but it by no means sets anything in stone.

The NHL hasn’t held any games since March 11, when they “paused” the regular season. News continues to trickle out about hopes for returning to complete the full season, but that doesn’t seem realistic. The league recently extended its period of self-quarantine for players until April 30, marking the third extension since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, eight NHL players have tested positive for coronavirus – five from the Senators and three from the Avalanche.

The league has expressed a desire to open small training camps to help players get back into shape for the ice, but there’s no telling how that will play out – especially if the self-quarantine window keeps evolving. Right now the NHL is “biting this off in chunks,” according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, and that makes this a very fluid situation.

“We’re exploring all options, but when we’ll have an opportunity to return depends on things that we have absolutely no control over because it all starts with everybody’s health and well-being,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told CNN. “Until there’s a sense that people can get together, not just in our arenas but for our players to get together to work out, we don’t know when we can come back.”

We do know that the NHL is willing to play through the summer to award the Stanley Cup. That may be a possibility given Fauci’s interview, especially if the league considers competing in empty arenas and some neutral locations.

It remains to be seen how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the game of hockey and professional sports going forward, but it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing a return to “normal” anytime soon. And it’s also safe to say that if a team does raise Lord Stanley’s Cup this season, it’ll be in front of row after row of empty seats.

Photo credit: NHL.com

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