Last night, the Ottawa Senators announced that a player on their team had become the first NHLer to test positive for COVID-19, plunging the NHL further into uncharted territory as the world continues to navigate the novel coronavirus pandemic.
During an appearance on Tim and Sid the next day, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr shed some light on how the NHL is approaching this ever-evolving situation.
“What happens in these kinds of circumstances, is that players understand when they have symptoms or there’s an issue that the first thing they do is seek medical attention,” Fehr said. “That’s either with the doctor they know which is unlikely in this situation. The doctor we have on staff or the team doctor, most of the time you go see them, you get yourself evaluated, and then you follow their advice.
“And then during that process, it eventually filters out to the team and back to our office and we contact everybody that’s involved, make sure we understand the situation, how other people are going to be notified, and so on.”
According to a statement released by the Senators, the player who tested positive had mild symptoms and is in isolation as of Tuesday night.
In the days leading up to the NHL’s COVID-19 induced shutdown, the Senators played all three teams from California, including the San Jose Sharks on March 7. That game was played one day after Santa Clara County, which includes the city of San Jose, recommended large gatherings be cancelled after 20 cases of COVID-19 were found in the region.
The Kings and Anaheim Ducks have since announced their players are not showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus at this time.
Amid the league-wide uncertainty over when or if hockey would resume this year, Fehr reiterated that the league is taking its direction from public health authorities in both the United States and Canada. In the meantime, for players, owners and fans alike, he’s advocating patience and taking proactive steps to ensure the health of as many people as possible.
“No. 1 priority that I have, everybody in the office has and everybody in the NHL has is essentially to keep focused on the fact that the health and safety of players, their family, the fans, the general public, all of our staffs is the most important thing. The rest of it will worry with later when the opportunity is right.
“…My guess is that over the next few days people will settle in all right, there’s a new reality. And the thing we have to do now is exercise good hygiene and protect everybody and wait.”