NHL chief medical officer cautions in opposition to early return

2:50 PM ET

  • Emily KaplanESPN


      Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s nationwide NHL reporter.

The NHL’s chief medical officer is urging warning towards the NHL returning to play this season — together with the thought of taking part in in empty arenas.

“From a medical perspective, I believe we would have to know what the dangers are for the totally different teams,” Dr. Willem Meeuwisse mentioned on a name with reporters Wednesday. “What are the dangers to the gamers? What are the dangers to the employees that may be required to run an occasion? And what are the dangers to the followers?

“As soon as we all know what these issues are, I believe we will make a extra clever choice.”

The NHL’s season has been on pause since March 12 as a result of coronavirus pandemic, and the league is operating a number of fashions of how they’ll full the season — if in any respect doable.

Meeuwisse mentioned it’s “very troublesome to foretell” a timeframe at this level.

“We might must have some data and confidence across the trajectory of the illness,” Meeuwisse mentioned. “As a result of if it is on a trajectory of getting worse and worse, it makes lots much less sense getting individuals collectively.”

NHL gamers had been initially advised to self-quarantine by Friday, although the NHL has now prolonged that date to April 4.

“That is a meaningless date actually at this cut-off date,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Invoice Daly mentioned. “As we get nearer to the date, we’ll must make choices as to what to do then. We’re biting this off in chunks.”

Stated Meeuwisse: “It is troublesome to foretell the place the pandemic goes and what the timeline shall be, however we do anticipate that is going to worsen earlier than it will get higher.”

Meeuwisse known as it “lucky” that the NHL has solely had two COVID-19 exams thus far — each had been gamers for the Ottawa Senators. The NHL’s testing, thus far, has primarily targeted on these exhibiting signs.

“I believe we had been lucky in making the choice on March 12 to not solely pause play, however even have gamers go into self-quarantine, together with employees and coaches,” Meeuwisse mentioned. “We now have a fairly good concept now, as a result of we’re nearly on the two-week mark, that the chance of them being affected previous to that interval is fairly low. That does not imply somebody cannot be uncovered now.”

Gamers had been advised they might self-quarantine anyplace, which led some European-born gamers to return to their dwelling nations.

“Step one that we anticipate taking is bringing individuals collectively in small teams,” Meeuwisse mentioned. “However the timeline for that at this level may be very troublesome to articulate. Whereas it is quickly accelerating, the danger within the normal inhabitants might be growing relatively than lowering, so till we see the place the height goes to be and the way excessive that peak goes to be, it’s totally troublesome to present a definitive timeline.”

Meeuwisse mentioned he has common calls together with his counterparts at MLB, the NBA and the NFL to “be sure that we’re constant within the info that we now have, on condition that it is continually altering, in order that we now have kind of a typical base for making choices.”

Ought to the NHL return to play this season, Meeuwisse mentioned there could be a mini coaching camp — first off-ice conditioning, then observe — earlier than precise video games.

“It’s important that they attempt to keep their conditioning so we will resume play if the circumstances change considerably, nevertheless it’s very troublesome to do,” Meeuwisse mentioned. “It is extra of a do-what-you-can-do method, the place if gamers can work out at dwelling in an remoted setting, that may be supreme. We do enable them — and perhaps even them encourage them — to get exterior and get some contemporary air as a result of I believe that is one factor that is most likely going to be an rising public well being message for everybody.”

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