The NHL is continuing to move forward with its reopening/postseason tournament plan, with hub cities expected to be announced soon, but they’re already seeing significant numbers of positive COVID-19 tests. The league released a statement Monday on the testing they’ve conducted so far, with more than 250 players reporting to camps for Phase 2 (optional small-group workouts) over the last three weeks, with 15 of those players testing positive through NHL-administered tests, and with 11 other players also testing positive during that period. Here’s that statement:
“As of Monday, June 29, the NHL has had in excess of 250 Players report to Club training/practice facilities for optional participation in Phase 2 activities. There have been in excess of 1,450 COVID-19 tests administered to this group of Players. Those tests have resulted in a total of 15 Players returning confirmed positive test results for COVID-19.
In addition, since June 8 (the opening of Phase 2), the League is aware of 11 additional Players who have tested positive for COVID-19 outside of the Phase 2 Protocol. All Players who have tested positive have been self-isolated and are following CDC and Health Canada protocols. The NHL will continue to provide regular updates on the number of tests administered to Players and the results of those tests.”
The test numbers there show that the players in camps are being tested regularly (1450 tests for 250 players would be an average of 5.8 tests per player), but they also show quite a few positives. 15 players from a group of 250 is six percent. And the NHL currently has 620 players in total on dressed rosters (20 players dressed per game per team, 31 teams) and 713 on active rosters (23 players per team), so 26 total player cases out of those numbers represents 4.2 and 3.6 percent of the league’s players respectively.
It should also be noted that these numbers are only for tests since June 8; they don’t count the players who tested positive before that, and the league had experienced nine confirmed player cases as of June 4 (with many of those cases taking place months earlier). So, if all of those cases are distinct individuals (which isn’t necessarily true; it appears to be possible to test positive again even after recovery), that means 35 total NHL players have tested positive so far. That would be 5.6 percent of all players on dressed rosters and 4.9 percent of all players on active rosters.
What does this all mean for the NHL’s plans to restart? Well, the numbers here aren’t necessarily going to force a change in their thinking, and this whole restart is very much about the money (even if they claim it isn’t). But the numbers are certainly concerning, especially considering how contagious this virus is; we’ve seen plenty of reports of it spreading through players working out together and through team facilities so far. It should also be noted that the numbers here only apply to players; there are plenty of coaches, trainers, and other team staffers involved with these restart attempts as well, to say nothing of arena workers or of eventual hotel staffers when the league gets to its hub cities. We’ll see how the testing numbers change for the NHL going forward.