With the NHL finally on the precipice of a long-awaited new season, the league has decided to share how their health and safety protocols have done so far in hopes that they can continue to improve as the year moves forward. Through two weeks of training camp for 31 organizations, the league estimates that over 12,000 tests for the COVID-19 virus have been administered. The result: just 27 of more than 1,200 players tested received a positive test, with daily testing ongoing for each club since as early as December 30.
These results – a positive test rate of less than 2.25% – are obviously great news for the league and all of its stakeholders as the season is about to get underway. Yet, one additional fact makes the results even more impressive. The league notes that 17 of the 27 players to test positive were members of the Dallas Stars. The Stars just returned to practice today after a four-day facility shutdown amid the virus and the league notes that “most of (Dallas’ positive players) are asymptomatic and… recovering without complications.” The Stars already had their opening week schedule adjusted but are on track for their new Opening Night of January 19 in Tampa.
Elsewhere around the league, that leaves just ten positive cases across 30 clubs, 21 of which were not impcted at all – an impressive mark to say the least. Given the struggles that some other major sports leagues had when returning to a non-bubble playing environment, the NHL appears to be on the right track. While the Stars have shown that a team-wide outbreak is possible and there will certainly be increased risks associated with travel, NHL teams, players, and fans all have to feel optimistic about the NHL being able to complete the coming season without major delay.
The league also included in their statement that their policy toward COVID publicity will change moving forward. Although a reason for a player’s absence was not required this summer during the expanded postseason nor during training camp, that anonymity has been removed. The release reads that “Effective with the start on the 2020-21 regular season, the NHL will provide regular updates on the results of tests administered to Players, including the identities of Players.”
Kudos to the NHL for not trying to play the smoke and mirrors game everyone else chooses to play about testing positive for COVID 19!