The St. Louis Blues might not have begun their own workouts and practices yet. However, the NHL is pushing ahead with potentially official dates to play games.
The St. Louis Blues are still playing a wait-and-see game as far as when they begin Phase 2, which is informal, small group workouts and skating. The NHL still has its eye on the prize and is coming very close to officially announcing a return to play date.
According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the NHL has approved a start date for the playoffs and when teams will arrive in their hub cities. Think what you want of the Post as a newspaper, but Brooks is a long-time hockey reporter and not likely one to make this sort of thing up.
According to his sources, the NHL will play its first games on July 30. As we have heard, training camps will open July 10 in each home city and then the NHL wants to have teams in their hub cities by July 23 or 24.
I like the fact we have more concrete dates and are pushing toward playing still. Nevertheless, only a week between travel and playing is a tiny bit scary. If enough players tested positive, a week might not be enough to make their inclusion in the playoffs viable, or could force a delay for all teams.
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Brooks does point out that this is all contingent on the NHLPA approval and the virus itself. Tampa Bay closed their facility after three players and one member of staff tested positive and the Arizona Coyotes had four players in one practice group have a positive test. Nothing was said as far as symptoms, leaving us to believe the majority were symptom free but still a carrier.
Regardless of how you feel about the masks and social distancing and the lot, this does shine a light on the habits of players. If they want their money and really want to play, they are going to have to make brief sacrifices.
The league did come down with stricter guidelines for hub markets saying players would not be allowed to go to restaurants or clubs and had to adhere to any local social distancing practices in public. The article used a grouping of larger than 10 is not allowed in Ontario as an example.
I would have thought that would go without saying, but apparently not. While I have my own beliefs on certain restrictions and their effectiveness in a broad sense, I just always assumed that players would be mostly confined to hotels and hockey facilities. The idea they were going to go out and eat at restaurants seems a bit foolish on their part, but with a spike in positive tests, maybe there were players out and about too much.
I’m fully on board with players being allowed to bring in a wife and kids, if they have them. Extended families would be too many people, but these are pro teams here. Even with the vast amounts of money lost, these teams can still afford quality catering so players don’t have to leave the hotels.
While it is exciting to have an exact date when things should start, this spike in positive tests is worrying. There are far too many people looking for any excuse not to resume any sense or normalcy, so the players need to be smart if we are to get hockey back.
If all goes well, we will have actual games to watch in a little over a month. While some dog on NBC, I am actually looking forward to their coverage.
They have taken their coverage of the Premier League seriously and not only added some crowd effects, but actually had reaction cues timed up perfectly to the action on an EPL game I watched this week. If they can put the same kind of attention into hockey, it won’t seem so strange to have empty arenas and will also drown out the cursing, which is bound to happen.
So, mark July 30 on your calendar. Use pencil, just in case though.