The OhioHealth Ice Haus is open as of June 11th when the NHL began allowing Phase 2 of the league reopening to commence! This is another goal in the right direction, but of course not close to the win, in this case, the Stanley Cup Playoffs resuming. As I reported in my last article to Columbus Blue Jacket fans, we are one of 24 teams playing for it this year, in a tournament unlike any before. All of these precautions and changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Only 2 groups of players are currently practicing, only five aloud on the ice at one time, however, many players are just happy to skate again. Many not doing so since the season went on hiatus in early March, the team at that point needing points and wins, getting as much in as possible before facing the Pittsburgh Penguins, a game which never happened. It would have been a must-win for the CBJ had it happened, a good mindset to keep now as they go forward, facing the Toronto Maple Leaves in a win or go home playoff situation. It is still unclear when and where this matchup will take place, but it will be a best of five games, and the winner will continue their chase for the 2020 Stanley Cup.
As for the groups currently training now, one will skate in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Seth Jones (D)
Andrew Peeke (D)
Oliver Bjorkstrand (RW)
Gus Nyquist (LW)
Matiss Kivlenieks (G)
Elvis Merzlikins (G)
Liam Foudy (C)
Riley Nash (C)
Scott Harrington (D)
In addition to the second group, there are two coaches returning to the ice too, Manny Legace for goaltending as well as Kenny McCudden an assistant coach with the Jackets. These are all closed off skate practices to everyone but the players and these to identified coaches only. Further, several safeguards are being put in place by the NHL for each team to follow, including but not limited to:
- Cleaning all areas players and coaches come in contact with, following the guidance of CDC recommendations.
- Each Team must have a Facility Hygiene Officer who will ensure all phase 2 NHL requirements are enforced.
- Upon return, a player will be tested for the virus. If negative he will be checked for a temperature each day he reports in addition to 2 additional weekly tests for the virus.
- All team members were also given a collective team conversation with medical staff, where they were able to understand the virus, ask questions, and learn the risks of returning to the ice. In addition, the expectations of NHL’s Phase 2 process were discussed in full.
In doing research for this article, I have found a lot of pride in being an NHL fan and sports writer covering a team of theirs. The care and responsibility put forth by the leaders show just how much they care for their player’s well-being, along with that of their families. Sadly, many states are recently seeing an increase in the number of cases, Florida and Texas being hit hard, home of the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers. In addition, we learned June 15th that truly no one is immune to this virus, as 2 NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Huston Texans report players testing positive for Covid-19. It is hard to say what direction the NHL will take with these developing stories, however, it is a quickly developing story for the NHL and the unknowing future as sports as a whole. With any luck though, we will be hearing that cannon as the summer comes to a close, and so does the pool of teams vying for that coveted cup!