- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
The National Hockey League released its first COVID-19 test results since training camps opened on July 13 and the numbers were encouraging, as only two players had tested positive.
The NHL concluded the first five days of testing from Phase 3 of its return-to-play protocol from July 13-17. The league said that 2,618 tests were administered to more than 800 players, returning only two positive COVID-19 tests. Both players had self-isolated and are following the protocols set forth by the CDC and Health Canada. The timeline for a return to the team greatly varies if the player was symptomatic or asymptomatic.
Players in Phase 3 are tested on an every other day basis, along with daily checks for fever and symptoms.
The NHL announced the results Monday.
Per NHL policy, the identity of these players was not revealed. As part of the return-to-play protocols voted on by the league and the NHLPA, the NHL is handling all news about injuries and COVID-19 diagnoses.
Players who are missing from training camp are labeled “unfit to play,” and teams are forbidden to elaborate on the reasons for their absence. There were many more players deemed “unfit to play” than tested positive through July 17. In some cases, players were held out of the lineup out of concern for “secondary exposure” to an individual that tested positive for COVID-19, as the Pittsburgh Penguins did with nine players on July 13.
The Phase 3 results are encouraging and trending in the right direction. Last week, the NHL released information about its COVID-19 test results for Phase 2, which included the reopening of team training facilities for informal workouts. There were 4,934 tests given to these players, with 30 positive results. In addition, the league said that 13 players outside of the Phase 2 protocol tested positive.
The 24 teams that are taking part in the NHL postseason are scheduled to move their training camps to two “hub” cities — Toronto for the Eastern Conference and Edmonton for the Western Conference — on July 26. The Stanley Cup Playoffs qualification and round-robin rounds will begin on Aug. 1.
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