Since hockey was paused on March 12, thoughts have swirled about the possibilities of returning to play and how the sport can resume activities safely. There have been ideas, a few signings, minor swaps, and at least one rancid Instagram chat.
Now, thoughts have turned to testing as parts of North America are opening up once more.
The NHL has addressed the fact that frequent testing will be required when hockey resumes and there will be protocol.
“We’re going to need to have access to testing, and we’re going to make it a point that we’re not accessing testing, even in a private way, if testing availability is an issue in the community,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said via 630 CHED in Edmonton. “We will not test asymptomatic players ahead of symptomatic people who are unable to get tested. It’s just something we will not do.”
Testing will have to coincide with a number of centralized locations where the league will hold games when play resumes. According to Daly, Edmonton is among those cities “definitely in the mix.”
Cities that host centralized games will have to meet significant criteria, like availability of testing capabilities and hotel access for players. Daly confirmed that the league was in the process of vetting various cities.
“Not every community probably will be in the place where they can allow for discretionary testing of players,” he said.
The NHL and NHLPA have constructed a “Return to Play Committee” comprised of executives and players familiar with the North American situation. With some players isolating in Europe or in their home countries, it’s important to populate any such committee with those on the ground in the United States and Canada where games will be taking place.
That issue of isolation will come up when teams return to play and that’s something the league also has to address.
“We don’t expect them to be isolated and away from their families for a four-month period of time or a three-month period of time or even a two-month period of time,” Daly said. “We understand the importance of kind of family interaction, and we’ll find a way to accommodate that.”
Also on the NHL’s laundry list is the NHL Entry Draft. There has been some talk about floating the draft in June before the end of the regular season, which could open up more than a few logistical and practical difficulties – particularly in the realm of conditional picks.
Overall, this is going to be a process and it will take some time. But the wheels are moving and things are progressing in the right direction, toward a safe and beneficial return to the game.