The NHL recently announced plans to return to play with a 24-team playoff split between two hub cities, ending a monthslong suspension that began March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That plan would also include "rigorous daily testing" for COVID-19, per NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly (h/t ESPN News Services):
"We will have a rigorous daily testing protocol where players are tested every evening and those results are obtained before they would leave their hotel rooms the next morning, so we'll know if we have a positive test and whether the player has to self-quarantine himself as a result of that positive test. It's expensive, but we think it's really a foundational element of what we're trying to accomplish."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league would need 25,000-35,000 tests to get through the proposed postseason.
Per Bettman, an individual test costs $125. With the estimated 25,000-35,000 test range provided, the cost of the COVID-19 tests may range from $3.1 million to $4.4 million.
NHL Players' Association executive director Don Fehr noted how important it was for players to receive daily testing: "You need testing at a level sufficient to be confident that you're going to be on top of anything which might happen. If that turns out to be daily, and that's available, that's OK. That would be good. If it turns out that that's not quite what we need and we can get by with a little less, that's OK."
The larger issue is what happens when a player tests positive. Daly said that games should continue if there is only one isolated case, but the Montreal Canadiens' Paul Byron wondered what would happen if a group of players tested positive.
"If one guy tests positive, I see it as unlikely that other guys don't test positive, but in assessing everybody I have to believe that they'll probably find it," he said. "What would happen if half your team or four or five or six guys test positive at one time?"
Bettman also spoke on the matter in an interview with ESPN's Sage Steele:
"That's going to be in the judgment of the medical people that are giving us advice. What we're hearing—and there are a lot of medical experts that we consult and weigh in with—we're hearing, that if you have one [positive] test, you quarantine that player and you're not done. If there's multiple tests and an outbreak, that's a different story, but that's a judgment that the doctors are going to be telling us and the health people from the community that we're in terms of what will be appropriate. That won't be a call we'll make, we're gonna leave that to the experts."
There's also the matter of ensuring that the league doesn't take away tests from health care workers or the general public, although Bettman said that the league's need for up to 35,000 tests would be "a relatively insignificant number" by the time the NHL plans to return in the summer.
Ultimately, some logistics still must be ironed out for the league to return to action, including a concrete timetable and choosing the hub cities. But signs still point toward play resuming at some point.