TORONTO – Call it the first step in a long, careful process.
Those Toronto Maple Leafs players already in the city are undergoing testing for COVID-19 Friday as the National Hockey League shifts into Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan Monday.
A voluntary move from self-quarantine to small-group workouts on and off the ice at the club’s training facility, Ford Performance Centre, will commence next week for players who clear testing.
Physicals will be followed by individualized training activities in groups that cannot exceed six players at once, per the NHL and NHLPA’s agreement.
Meeting all of the health and safety guidelines of Ontario, MLSE and the NHL to open up for Phase 2 has been “very time-consuming,” GM Kyle Dubas said during Wednesday’s In Conversation appearance with Ron MacLean.
It is also expensive. Not all of the 24 clubs with 2020 Stanley Cup hopes will be able to open Phase 2 Monday, even with the league’s green light.
Dubas said 13 Maple Leafs had stayed put in the Toronto area — a collection that includes Mitch Marner, Zach Hyman, Jake Muzzin and Kyle Clifford — while another “four or five” have crossed the border and commenced their mandatory 14-day quarantine in Canada.
The remaining Leafs continue to train from their homes overseas or in the U.S.
The Maple Leafs are in talks with the government to find out if their returning players can quarantine both at home and their sanitized workplace, Dubas noted.
“Our strong hope is that most, if not all, of the 24 teams coming back to play will have the ability to test their players prior to engaging in Phase 2. And our Phase 2 protocol, I think, specifically specifies testing at least twice weekly and perhaps more,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last week.
“The one issue that we continue to work actively on is the mandatory federal quarantine that is in place in Canada for all people who travel into Canada, and we are having various discussions with various different departments, the Canadian government. We don’t have a resolution there, but it’s an ongoing dialogue for sure.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins announced Thursday that one of their players had tested positive for COVID-19 and has been isolating since first experiencing symptoms.
The move to Phase 3 of the NHL’s return to action, full-team training camp, will not occur until at least July 10.