The NHL on Tuesday pushed the self-quarantine period for its players through April 15, marking the second extension since the league put its season on pause on March 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also on Tuesday, the city of Toronto banned all public events until June 30, though that order would not necessarily preclude the Maple Leafs from hosting games.
Still, the separate reactions to the coronavirus outbreak illustrate the uncertainty the NHL – along with the rest of the sports world – faces in re-starting competition.
Initially, the NHL was hopeful its teams could resume training by the end of the 60-day period the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on March 15 during which gatherings were to be limited to 50 people or fewer. The league, at first, issued a self-quarantine guideline for its players through March 27, which was then extended to this coming Saturday.
On Sunday, President Trump extended social-distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30.
So far, four unnamed NHL players have tested positive for COVID-19, two from the Ottawa Senators and two from the Colorado Avalanche. Rangers and Knicks owner James Dolan has also tested positive.
The NHL is still expressing hope it can complete the 2019-20 season. But no decisions have been made on whether that will include any or all of the remaining 189 regular-season games among the 31 teams or what the playoff format might be, or if fans would be allowed in the rinks if games occur.
Having groups of players resume training – presumably at the team facilities – would be the first step toward restarting the season.
But awarding the Stanley Cup by the second week of June is seemingly becoming less and less likely.
“I think, as time has gone on, we’ve recognized we might have a bigger window than we had originally thought with respect to the summer months and when we have to finish things to be ready for a full regular season next year,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com on Friday.
The NHL has asked teams for arena availability through the end of August, though Daly said it was the league’s hope to be playing sooner than that.
“Depending on how things play out, we’d love to be playing sometime in the spring,” Daly said. “Then, if we have to leak into early summer, we’d love to have that problem. But I don’t think we’re far enough long in understanding where this is going to know what’s possible at this point in time.”