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NHL taking steps to control 'inevitable' spread of COVID-19

It came as no surprise to the NHL.

The first confirmed case of the COVID-19 infection in the league community was officially announced Tuesday night, with the Ottawa Senators revealing that an unnamed player had tested positive and was receiving treatment for their symptoms in isolation.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was the original point of contact for the Senators’ medical personnel that handled the diagnosis, receiving word a few hours before the club sent out a press release, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported Wednesday.

It was a call Daly was expecting to receive sooner than later.

“(The) virus’s impact on our community was inevitable to a certain extent,” Daly told LeBrun. “It was really just a matter of time until we were going to have our first player test positive.”

For Daly, the approach does not change because an active player was infected. The same preventative steps, most importantly self-quarantining, remains the course of action when treating the ill and preventing the spread of the disease.

“The fact that it’s a player as opposed to a club staff member or a front office staff person really doesn’t change the approach in terms of how you have to deal with it,” Daly said.

Daly is not aware of any other confirmed cases at the time of his discussion with LeBrun, but is not naive to the fact that other players — and likely other Senators — have been infected as well. Hailey Salvian and James Mirtle of The Athletic reported Tuesday night that multiple Senators were feeling ill and were awaiting results from their COVID-19 testing.

As a precaution, all Senators players will remain in segregated isolation.

The Athletic will release the full Daly interview Wednesday.

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 16 : Rogers Arena ticket office are seen after NHL postpones games due to concerns related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Vancouver, Canada on March 16, 2020. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Prioritizing next season

Daly also provided some insight into the contingency plans the NHL has in place moving forward, with one important detail to note.

Daly told LeBrun the NHL will not sacrifice a portion of next season while weighing the options with regard to how it will proceed with the remainder of this year. More specifically, that is, the NHL is prioritizing the 2020-21 campaign over trying desperately to rescue the current season in its complete form.

This likely means the reported proposal from select members of the NHLPA to essentially pick up where they left off beginning in June won’t be a serious consideration from the NHL, as that proposal would significantly impact next season.

The more likely scenario is that the NHL figures out a way to complete this season in a timely fashion before looking forward to an unimpeded start to 2020-21.

Leading solution?

The NHL has not tipped its hand in any way with regard to how it might look to complete the current season in a timely and yet just fashion, but the solution talked about most seems to be a 20 or 24-team tournament that will begin with a play-in round to establish seeding for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But while it makes sense on many levels, there is some resistance to the idea among NHL executives. LeBrun noted in Tuesday’s Insider Trading segment on TSN that at least one GM doesn’t like the idea of pushing players through a full training camp, only to have the resumed season consist of only a couple of games.

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