Following the news earlier Friday that three unnamed Tampa Bay Lightning players and two staffers had tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, Steve Simmons of The Toronto Sun reported Friday afternoon that Toronto Maple Leafs’ star Auston Matthews has also tested positive for the disease. Matthews, the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, the 2017 Calder Trophy winner and a four-time All-Star with 285 points in 282 career regular-season and playoff NHL games to date (he also finished third in goals this season with 47 in 70 games), is one of the most prominent athletes in any sport to receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis so far. Here’s more from Simmons’ piece:
Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews has tested positive for the coronavirus COVID-19, two National Hockey League sources outside Toronto have confirmed to the Toronto Sun.
…To date, the Maple Leafs have not commented on Matthews’ status and may have some kind of response later today or tomorrow. Apparently, the Leafs were seeking more “clarity” on the private matter before considering releasing a statement of any kind.
“There’s no blueprint for this,” one source said. “This is not an ankle injury.”
…According to sources, a numbers of unidentified Arizona Coyotes players, who were training alongside Matthews, also tested positive recently.
Simmons notes that Leafs’ goaltender Frederik Andersen spent much of the break with Matthews in Scottsdale, Arizona, but Andersen is no longer there, and he tested negative for the disease recently. But it’s certainly notable that someone of Matthews’ stature has now tested positive.
And the news of Coyotes’ players training with Matthews (as allowed under the NHL’s current Phase 2 return-to-play protocols, which permit voluntary workouts in groups of up to six) also testing positive makes this even more of an issue for the NHL. That makes it more clear still that there are plenty of NHL players already dealing with COVID-19, even this early in the proposed return-to-play protocols.
That also raises questions on if the league will proceed with its current timeline of moving to Phase 3 (the opening of team-specific training camps) on July 10. Simmons’ piece says Matthews is quarantining in his house, and “hoping to be healthy enough and eligible to travel to Toronto and participate in the opening of Leafs camp on July 10,” but there are more questions now about if that camp and other NHL camps will actually open then.