First professional league in North America to announce a format for the recovery potential of its season, the NHL is also counting on a strategy developed on the screening tests of the COVID-19.
May 31, 2020 14h51
Updated at 18h36
If hockey resumes, the NHL plans to test the players on a daily basis
Nick Foligno is watching the press briefings of the governor of Ohio Mike DeWine about the coronavirus and appreciates the value of information. This is partly why the captain of the Blue Jackets of Columbus is in agreement with the idea of testing players of the national hockey League on a daily basis if the season were to start over again.
“The screening tests are essential, because it is the only way to know and to have confidence that every presence on the ice, everyone is in the same boat, and we can play a game to the best of his abilities,” said Foligno.
First professional league in North America to announce a format for the recovery potential of its season, the NHL is also counting on a strategy developed on the screening tests of the COVID-19. Testing protocols are in place for training sessions and optional training camps, in the hands of the teams.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly also said the NHL plans to test all players all the days when matches will have started.
“We will have in place a rigorous protocol of testing under which the players will be tested every night. The results will be obtained before they leave their hotel room the next morning, and we will know if we have a positive test, and if a player needs to place themselves in voluntary isolation in the wake of this positive test,” said Daly.
“It is expensive, but we believe that it is an element which is very fundamental to what we are trying to accomplish.”
Each test will cost about$ 125, according to the league, and commissioner Gary Bettman has estimated that it will make between 25 000 and 35 000 tests for the duration of the playoffs — a bill, concedes-t-it, which amount will be in the “millions of dollars”. However, athletes are concerned about the risks to their health in the event of a return to work, and they insisted on testing on a regular basis.
“It is necessary to test at a sufficient level to be able to face any eventuality”, added the executive director of the players Association, Don Fehr.
“If it must be on a daily basis, and that it is available, it’s okay. This would be good. If it turns out that this is not quite what we need and we can make it happen with a little less, it’s okay.”
“We will have in place a rigorous protocol of testing under which the players will be tested every night. The results will be obtained before they leave their hotel room the next morning, and we will know if we have a positive test, and if a player needs to place themselves in voluntary isolation in the wake of this positive test ”
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an expert in the field of infectious diseases at the Center for food safety of the Johns Hopkins University, is not certain of the required frequency of tests to ensure that the players are not infected with the virus. It is believed that the testing put forward in soccer in Germany will help to determine the exact frequency, which also depends on the type of quarantine and risk of exposure for the players.
“We know that people who have increased contact between them will have more opportunities to spread the virus, and hockey is a sport where individuals have many contacts between them,” said dr. Adalja.
“I would say that they (the leaders of the NHL) will have to be more aggressive than other leagues in terms of testing.”
Although the level of concern among the players in the face of the chances of contracting the virus by taking the season may vary, many seem to agree with the tests common.
“The fact of having a testing day after day eventually limit the potential of catching the virus,” said Darnell Nurse, a representative of the Edmonton Oilers within the players Association.
“If this is what you need to do, if the professionals of this field, who confront and attack these challenges every day, believe that this is the best option, so that’s the direction that we need to borrow.”
His teammate Connor McDavid and John Tavares, the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs — two members of the joint NHL/NHLPA “Return to Game”, prefer to leave it to the experts to determine the frequency of testing amongst the players.
“In a time like this, I think it should be tested, and you want to take the test as often as possible to find out (if you have the virus) immediately,” said McDavid.
Daly has also stated that a positive test result for coronavirus would not compel not necessarily the NHL to announce a new pause in his activities. Tests at the level of the league would isolate a player, coach or staff member of the team prior to the start of an outbreak.
“If a player has a positive test, it appears to me unlikely that other players do not get a positive test, but by evaluating all of the world, I imagine that they would find them,” noted Paul Byron, the representative of the players at the Montreal canadiens.
“What would happen if half of your team, or four, or five, or six players tested positive at the same time ?”
The leaders of the teams and the league have insisted that they would only take thousands of tests if such a number does not endanger the availability to the general population, a concern that dr. Adalja has referred to all sports.
According to Bettman, medical experts have told the NHL when the league would relaunch its activities this summer, 25 000 to 30 000 tests would be a “relatively insignificant”.