Due to the Canadian federal government’s 14-day quarantine orders for those entering the country, the Calgary Flames are making plans to hold their training camp in the United States.
“We’ve been looking at that for quite a long time – we’re well down the path,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving Tuesday.
“The logistics have been worked on for a camp in the U.S., if need be. I don’t want guys coming back to Calgary and sitting on their butts for two weeks in their condos and being out of shape when it’s time to go again. It may make more sense for us to have camp in the U.S. so we can have guys together quicker and being productive. The quarantine issue is a big one.”
The Flames aren’t the only Canadian team thinking that way.
The league has been in communication with the Prime Minister’s Office with hopes of finding out how long the quarantine rules will stay in effect, or whether there’s a chance they’ll be relaxed in some fashion.
Currently, anyone entering Canada is subject to a mandated, two-week quarantine at their residence. Unless the government changes the quarantine guidelines, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the idea of Edmonton, Vancouver or Toronto being a hub city for the playoffs is off the table, erasing millions of dollars for the local economy.
Ditto for Canadian teams hosting their training camps in Canada.
No one questions that safety is of the utmost importance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but as the number of positive tests and deaths in Canada continues to decrease and the country reopens for business, one of the solutions being pitched by the league to health officials would be a modified quarantine.
“I think you can do it in a way where you’re not putting anyone in the public in jeopardy,” said Treliving. “One of the ideas that makes sense is you identify who the players are and, yes they would be quarantined, but we’re going to extend your quarantine between your home and the Saddledome. The only place you’re going is a bubble – it’s with a peer group, not the public. And it’s probably the safest, cleanest, most sanitized place in the city of Calgary right now. You’re being tested on a regular basis.
“I don’t want to be jumping out in front of the queue at all, but to me there’s some validity to that idea.”
It’s a tricky one, as the politics of altering rules for hockey players could be explosive, even if arguments can be made that the medical staffers with each team can mitigate risk with their resources, testing and monitoring.
The league announced the launch of Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan last week, allowing teams to open practice facilities for players to work out and skate in small groups following testing and several other steps, including watching an educational video.
A handful of teams allowed groups of up to six to skate in their rinks starting Monday, with more teams opening their doors as the week progresses.
The Flames only have a few players in town, including captain Mark Giordano, and will allow small groups to start skating informally at the Saddledome as early as Wednesday or Thursday, once protocols have been completed.
The skates are voluntary and must follow social distancing rules. Under those parameters, and with no firm dates for a restart, none of the players situated outside of the city are tempted to return anytime soon, if at all.
The reality is that in most cities outside of Canada, players have been skating regularly for weeks — if not months — in private facilities alongside fellow NHLers. Better for them to stay there until dates and hub city locations are announced.
“The guys in Sweden haven’t stopped skating through all this,” said Treliving, who has a handful of players there who’ve been doing full skates throughout the COVID-19 pause. “Some of the guys there took time off last week, telling me, ‘if I don’t take some time off I’ll be skating for 14 months.’”
Like everyone around the world, Treliving just wants answers on when things are slated to return. The league has said camps will open no earlier than July 10, which doesn’t give anyone much to go on just yet.
“Your hands are tied a little bit because I want to get a head start, but if we go do a camp now in the U.S. and all of a sudden we’re playing in Edmonton or Vancouver then we’re really hooped because the whole team is in the U.S. and has to quarantine for two weeks,” said Treliving, whose club is slated to face Winnipeg in a best-of-five play-in if the 24-team playoff tourney can get medical clearance to start as early as August.
“Just watching and listening, I don’t think this quarantine issue is going anywhere. I’m at the stage where I just want to find out what we’re doing and then we can plan.”