The NHL has extended its period of self-quarantine for players and staff to April 30.
It’s the third time that directive has changed since the spread of COVID-19 forced the season to be paused on March 12. The NHL is "biting this off in chunks," deputy commissioner Bill Daly explained last month, by establishing manageable timeframes that allow for up-to-the-minute information on the novel coronavirus to be analyzed and weighed.
The period of self-quarantine has been pushed from March 27 to April 4 to April 15 to April 30 as a result.
NHL players were permitted to leave their playing cities after the season was paused and many have since returned to off-season homes in Europe and other parts of North America. They have been instructed to self-quarantine, practice physical distancing and immediately report any symptoms or testing results to club medical staff.
Eight NHL players have so far produced positive COVID-19 tests – five from the Ottawa Senators and three from the Colorado Avalanche.
The league hopes to eventually open team facilities for small-group workouts before conducting training camps lasting as long as three weeks, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.
"As much as you may try to stay in shape with a home gym, our guys haven’t been on the ice now for about a month and they’re going to need about two or three weeks to get back into playing shape," Bettman said Monday afternoon during an appearance on CNN.
"So as much as we may worry about … [keeping] everybody safe from the coronavirus, we also want to make sure our players don’t jeopardize their health by coming back too soon and not being in game shape."
There were 189 regular-season games remaining when the NHL hit pause.
It’s not yet clear what format a resumption of play would take on, or where those games might be held, but the league is willing to play through July, August and perhaps early September in order to try and award the Stanley Cup.
There’s hope, but no guarantees, that the extended window will allow for a conclusion to the season.
"We’re exploring all options, but when we’ll have an opportunity to return depends on things that we have absolutely no control over because it all starts with everybody’s health and well-being," Bettman told CNN. "Until there’s a sense that people can get together, not just in our arenas but for our players to get together to work out, we don’t know when we can come back.
"But it’s something we’re monitoring on a daily basis."