The New York Rangers have seen players such as Igor Shesterkin, Pavel Buchnevich, and other player’s return to New York with the NHL focusing on testing and getting ready for training camp to begin.
Friday evening prior to the NHL draft Lottery, Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke about the importance of players returning to their home cities, getting tested for COVID-19, and the excitement of beginning the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“At the peak, I think we had 17 percent of our players outside of North America, and 56 percent of our players weren’t in the markets in which their teams play,” Commissioner Bettman told NBC Sports Network prior to the First Phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery. “But the goal is [to] get everybody back, get everybody tested, make sure the right protocols are in place because health and safety is paramount. And then hopefully as a group we can hold off COVID-19, get everybody together in the hub cities and then finish the season with a great tournament,” as was reported by Tom Gulitti of NHL.Com.
For clubs like the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist, Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko and Alexandar Georgiev have been overseas since the pandemic shut down the NHL on Mar. 12. Phase 2 began on June 8 with players entering facilities for voluntary workouts needing to take mandatory testing for COVID-19.
The NHL and the NHLPA have been working closely to establish a health protocol for the league to proceed with training camp and for when the Playoffs begin. Training camps can open provided that medical and safety conditions allow and the parties have reached an agreement on the resumption of play.
The NHL announced on June 19 that more than 200 players had multiple tests and 11 tested positive for COVID-19. Any player who tested positive went into self-isolation and followed the Centers for Disease Control and Health Canada protocols.
An announcement of which hub cities will host the qualifying rounds and the start of the playoffs could be made in the next few days. The Eastern Conference will have 12 teams along with 12 teams from the Western Conference. Las Vegas, Toronto, and Edmonton are among the rumored locations.
The league has confirmed that if a player or a small number of players should test positive during the playoffs these players would self-isolate with the games continuing. The big fear comes if an entire team or teams should have an outbreak of the coronavirus during the playoffs.
Would the league suspend the tournament until the outbreak is under control or would they be forced to outright cancel the season and not be able to award the Stanley Cup? Bettman is hoping that they can finish the year without too many health distractions.
The New York Rangers have not reported any positive COVID-19 cases with just a small amount of players attending the voluntary workouts at their Tarrytown, NY location.