NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was a guest on CNN early this afternoon to discuss the return of hockey. Bettman discussed the league’s established protocols and evaluation metrics with regards to testing for COVID-19.
Bettman was asked about the Penguins electing to sit nine players due to potential exposure to COVID-19. He noted this was a critical stage in the overall ‘return to play’ process.
“The bigger issue is getting everybody back, into training camps, in the facilities where the clubs play and train, in their home markets and evaluating how people are coming back, whether or not they have been exposed to COVID 19. What the Penguins did in Pittsburgh was I think almost a tertiary possible exposure and there was an abundance of caution. Our protocols are very strict, very comprehensive, and as we’ve said from the onset, health and safety is going to be the key. We’ve had hundreds of players tested already, we’ve had thousands of tests administered. At least in the inception of getting everybody back, we anticipated there would be some number of positive tests, which is why we are moving slowly and cautiously, but we believe as we go through this screening process and we actually get to our two bubbles in places that don’t have a lot of COVID-19, we should be ok.”
Bettman was then asked about the league’s plan for the bubbles.
“We we think we have a terrific plan, the plan has been signed off on by the health authorities both in Alberta and Ontario, and we are working with the federal government in Canada, as well. All the leagues have been kind of watching each other, talking to each other, our chief medical people regularly consult with each other, but we are all doing what we think is appropriate for our sport, and bringing everybody back for training camp, which in our case is important, not only do we wanna make sure that we are COVID-free to the largest extent possible, a lot of our players haven’t skated in months, which is the longest they haven’t skated since they were children, and we just want to make sure that they are in game-ready shape. Having them in training camp, testing extensively, isolating where appropriate, we think we can get to the point where it will be safe to bring everybody to the bubble. We don’t want to do anything that comprises health and safety, and as everybody in all the leagues have acknowledged, this isn’t without its risks, but that’s why we are moving slowly and prudently, and ultimately it’s one of the reasons, we had ten different opportunities to go to hub cities, and ultimately a major consideration, as we said all along, was where would we see the least amount of COVID-19.”
Bettman was asked about player privacy and sports betting
“First of all the privacy question was paramount, but putting aside HIPAA for a second, we spent the last three months in a collaborative effort with our players association, whether it was the return to play system, the protocols, transition rules, critical dates, or the fact in the midst of all of this we actually agreed to extend our collective bargaining agreement for another four years, so we have six years of labor peace, the players association has said we don’t want to have to unless the player desires to expose it, so we are doing that with all injuries. We are respecting the players wishes in that regards, but we are going to expose numbers.”
By Jon Sorensen