The NHL has its first coronavirus case, and the league is monitoring the situation closely but, as of now, not requiring that all players get tested.
An Ottawa Senators player tested positive for COVID-19 late Tuesday. The team did not release his name and said he had mild symptoms — which had caused him to get tested — and was in isolation.
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The Senators said all players or personnel who came in close contact with the player were being asked to remain isolated and to monitor their health.
“As a result of this positive case, all members of the Ottawa Senators are requested to remain isolated, to monitor their health and seek advice from our team medical staff,” the team said in a statement.
Ottawa’s last five games were against Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, the Islanders, and Pittsburgh before the league suspended the regular season last Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday recommended the cancellation or postponement of all events with 50 people or more for eight weeks. That means the season wouldn’t be able to restart with fans in arenas until at least May 10.
The Senators-Sharks game was played as cases and concern were growing throughout California’s Bay Area. The Sharks let fans attend that game and the next night’s contest against the Colorado Avalanche, then went on the road to play the Chicago Blackhawks on the 11th. The NHL suspended play on March 12 and hopes to resume at some point.
Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, said players would get tested only if they had symptoms. He said health officials recommend testing only for people who display symptoms.
“Our current advice from medical professionals is that people should likely not be tested in the absence of being symptomatic,” he said in a text to The Inquirer. “So, we are not recommending mass testing of players and personnel by our clubs.”
He said he was “not aware” that any NHL clubs were testing players.
A Flyers spokesman said that, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the team’s players and staff members will not be tested. The guidelines say someone should be tested if they have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has symptoms, the spokesman said, noting that has not been the case with Flyers players or staff members.
The Flyers last played Ottawa on Dec. 21, and they haven’t played one of the Sens’ last five opponents since Feb. 25 (San Jose).
Ottawa’s announcement came hours after the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets confirmed that four of their players tested positive for the coronavirus. Kevin Durant said publicly he was one of them. The Senators faced the Kings at the Staples Center the day after the Nets played the Lakers in the same arena.
If the NHL wanted its season to end in late June, it would probably have to terminate the rest of the regular season and start a revised Stanley Cup playoff format — perhaps with four teams qualifying in each conference — around May 10. That may be the best-case scenario.
On Wednesday, the United States Hockey League, composed of junior teams, canceled the rest of the season because of the coronavirus. The league had originally announced it was suspending the season last Thursday.