NEW YORK (Reuters) – National Hockey League (NHL) players can expect daily COVID-19 testing if a proposed 24-team playoff competition is able to go forward this year, league officials said.
The NHL, on hold since March due to the global coronavirus outbreak, outlined a roadmap for a return to competition on Tuesday, with plans to hold games in two hub cities without fans but stopped short of suggesting a potential start date.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly outlined the league’s “rigorous and comprehensive” testing protocol, which would include nightly COVID-19 testing once the competition gets underway.
“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,” said Daly.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league could end up doing 25,000 to 30,000 tests costing “millions of dollars” as a result.
“It’s conceivable that we’re playing at the end of July,” said Bettman, but added that “anyone who gives you a date is guessing.”
The NHL plan comes as a handful of professional sports operations, including NASCAR, return to action, even as many parts of North America are still observing quarantine or social distancing measures.
Daly said, depending on the circumstance, a player testing positive would “not necessarily shut the whole operation down,” citing guidance from NHL’s medical advisors.
“Obviously we can’t be in a situation where we have an outbreak,” said Daly. “But a single positive test or isolated positive test throughout a two-month tournament should not necessarily mean an end to the tournament.”