VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The ice has been laid down at Rogers Arena as the Vancouver Canucks are within a stick length of returning to play.
But heading back comes as more than two dozen NHL players have tested positive for COVID-19 as teams slowly start to come together to resume the season.
Scott Rintoul, host with Sportsnet 650, said despite the positive tests, it doesn’t look like the league will cancel the 2020 season because it’s losing too much money.
“I do fully expect some players to opt-out,” Rintoul said of the shortened season. “I don’t know who, I don’t know how many. But we’ve seen it in every other sport. We’ve seen players say, ‘No, not for me. Best of luck. Hope it goes well, but I’m not committed to doing it.'”
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) June 29, 2020
On Monday, at least four Major League Baseball players — Mike Leake, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Joe Ross — indicated they will sit out the 2020 season.
The same day, the NHL confirmed 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three weeks.
However, Rintoul said the vast major of professional athletes think their respective seasons can go ahead.
“So far those that have come on and have discussed it have said, ‘Yes, we understand the concerns, but we’re getting advice from medical experts in our field that tell us there is a way to do this,’ and they believe they can proceed.”
The next phase of the NHL returning to play, training camps, are set to start July 10.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) June 30, 2020
Fifteen of the positive tests announced Monday came from those participating in voluntary small-group workouts at NHL facilities — a group that includes 250-plus participants, or roughly a third of the total needed for the planned 24-team restart.
The other 11 positives came from players not yet subject to regular testing under the league’s return-to-play protocol.
Exhaustive testing procedures are expected to be part of the overall package being finalized by the NHL and NHLPA.
The league has yet to announce the two hub cities where games will be played once the season resumes.
Vancouver was informed last week that it is no longer being considered as one.
Toronto, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Las Vegas are still potential sites.
The NHL is looking for one hub for the Eastern Conference and one for the west.