As the NHL has moved into Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan, the league announced Friday that 11 players out of over 200 tested positive for COVID-19.
The Tampa Bay Lightning verified three of their players have confirmed cases, and they have since closed their facilities.
Names of players who tested positive will not be disclosed, though the league did note all persons who tested positive have been self-isolated and are following guidelines set by Health Canada and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The results are a worrisome trend for the league as it prepares to enter Phase 3 on July 10.
Training camps are set to officially open when Phase 3 begins, a notion that becomes increasingly more difficult as clubs like the Lightning are forced to temporarily shut down.
Clubs only recently began allowing players back into their buildings for voluntary workouts, and though players were excited to get on the ice, some notable players were skeptical about how quickly the league is moving ahead—especially as they continue to flush out a full negotiation with the league.
The Athletic's Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus spoke to Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks about the issue June 11:
“We have be pretty cautious about that. I know that the NHL is putting out dates and whatnot, but I think as players, nothing has been agreed to yet. And I think there’s a long way to go before we reach a certain agreement where we would want to come back and play and feel safe enough — feel like it’s the right deal for us to come back. Obviously, we’re in the process of doing that, and it’s an ongoing process.
“There’s more than just being cautious and safe. There are a lot of different things with negotiations that we don’t need to dive into. I just know the players just want a fair deal, that’s the biggest thing. … The NHL is putting out these dates, and as players, we’re kind of taking a step back and saying, ‘Why are these dates being put out when we haven’t really agreed to anything yet?’ We just want to be cautious as players, put that message out. We want a fair shake at it.
“And if that happens and we come back and we’re able to play, I think everyone is all for that. You guys know me, I love hockey. I love playing the game. I want to play hockey. But you want it to be fair for the players, too. It’s uncharted territory with a situation like this, guys coming from Canada, Europe. What if someone gets sick? Things like that. We just want to keep our eye on the ball here and make sure we get a fair deal."
The league is now at the point where it must answer the question about players getting sick. As it moves forward towards Phase 3 and an eventual restart, time is becoming a factor in finding the solutions.