• Andrew McGuinness

Updates on the NHL, Flyers During Coronavirus Pandemic

This post will detail the NHL's and the Philadelphia Flyers' response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It will be updated periodically whenever new updates about the Flyers or/and the 2019-20 NHL season become available.

On Thursday, the National Hockey League made the obvious decision to suspend the 2019-20 season due to coronavirus. The news followed the NBA's decision to do the same after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz (and later, his teammate Donovan Mitchell) tested positive. MLB and MLS also followed suit. Another NBA player, Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons (who played the 76ers Wednesday) and a minor-leaguer for the Yankees also tested positive.

The NHL has told players that there is supposed to be at least a three week hold on the season - that's the best case. Currently, players are being told to self-quarantine in either their home city or their team's city. Eventually, the plan is for teams to begin practicing together at some point, followed by the resumption of the season.

How the season progresses once the suspension is lifted is also a fluid situation, dependent largely on when the season resumes. Reading between the lines of Gary Bettman's statement, it sounds like the NHL wants to finish the regular season if possible. For now, here is a timeline of the NHL's and the Flyers' response to coronavirus, with updates coming as soon as new information becomes available. Anything with a - preceding it is my opinion; everything else is just relaying and organizing information.

Thursday, March 13

The NHL pauses the 2019-20 season due to the spread of coronavirus.

NHL owners are asked to provide building availability through the end of July (Frank Seravalli - TSN).

Gary Bettman indicates that the 2020-21 season will be a normal, 82-game season starting in October, regardless of how this season ends.

NHL players will still be paid their final three checks for the rest of the regular season. They will be paid on March 13, March 30, and April 15 (Chris Johnston - Sportsnet).

Saturday, March 15

The Wells Fargo Center announces that they will be paying all part-time employees scheduled to work postponed Flyers, 76ers, and Wings games, as well as other events, for at least two weeks (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), the league below the AHL that is directly affiliated with the NHL, officially cancels the reminder of its 2019-20 regular season and 2020 playoffs. The Reading Royals (the Flyers ECHL affiliate) had clinched a playoff spot just before the season shutdown.

Sunday, March 16

The NHL is reportedly considering expanding the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs to 24 teams (likely 12 per conference) by adding a playin round. This would obviously benefit, and probably be more fair, to teams that just barely missed out of the playoffs, not knowing their final regular season game might be played a month earlier than they expected (Igor Eronko - KHL TV).

Some NBA updates, since their situation is obviously very similar to the NHL's. With the CDC recommending a ban on all public gatherings larger than 50 people for eight weeks (May 10), the NBA is seeking to return in mid-to-late June with no fans in attendance (Adrian Wojnarowski - ESPN).

- That result wouldn't be ideal, of course, but it's far better than nothing. With many NBA and NHL teams sharing a building and facilities, I wouldn't expect one league to resume significantly ahead or behind the other, or for one to return and the other to shut down for the season.

Also on the NBA front, the league is now allowing players to leave their teams' city during the hiatus (Shams Charania - The Athletic).

- It's not much, but it's a start. The NHL asked players to also quarantine in their team's city (Pierre LeBrun - The Athletic), so hopefully it's not too much longer before they start mobilizing.

An employee for the Vancouver Canucks tested positive for coronavirus (the Sharks previously also had an employee test positive). The individual is receiving care and feeling better, according to the team, and extra precautions are being taken.

Monday, March 16

The NHL just followed the NBA's lead. Players are now allowed to go home, regardless of what state or country home is, but they must self-quarantine until March 27th.

In a statement today, the NHL announced that they hope to open a training camp 45 days into the CDC's 60 day period of avoiding gatherings of 50 or more people.

- This is the best case scenario for the NHL. That would mean training camp begins around May 1, with the playoffs probably beginning a week or two later. As mentioned earlier, the NBA is hoping for a mid-June return, so this is probably wishful thinking. Still, at least we have a general date to look forward to.

The AHL has announced that play will not resume until at least May, and their players are advised to return to their primary residencies.

Tuesday, March 17 (Happy St. Patrick's Day!)

The NHL players are floating out their own proposal for the rest of the NHL season. Here's a breakdown of it on TSN (screenshot from Jason Myrtetus).

- This definitely seems like a more realistic timeline that the ones the NHL has been rumoring, especially with Trump's announcement that the disease might not dissipate until "July or August." Honestly, whatever the league has do for the 2020 playoffs to take place, I'm all for it. I don't know whether the players are expecting crowds to be back for the remaining games, or if they would want to shorten the 2021-21 season as a result of it starting so late. Obviously, hopefully things go well enough that this timeline gets bumped up, but I'd be ok with this proposal. Would you?

Wednesday, March 18

The NHL has its patient zero. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported late last night that an Ottawa Senator has tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the first NHLer to do so. The player is reportedly experiencing mild symptoms and is isolation, per the team. Furthermore, The Athletic's James Mirtle reported that multiple Sens are experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

- Obviously, this is very bad news. If a player contracted the disease before the league shutdown a week ago, he could have spread it to players on other teams during games. It only takes one case for this thing to get out of hand.

In an interview with Pierre LeBrun (The Athletic), NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly re-emphasized the league's desire to have a full, 82-game 2020-21 season. This would appear to put cold water on yesterday's leaked player's proposal, which wouldn't have the regular season starting until November (no word on when the season would end or how many games would be played).

Friday, March 20

Some good news: Comcast Spectacor is extending salary relief for Wells Fargo Center workers through April 15, two weeks beyond the original deadline of the end of March (Sam Carchidi - Philadelphia Inquirer).

Saturday, March 21

A second Senators player, who played in a recent road trip in Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose, has tested positive for COVID-19, the club announced today.

Wednesday, March 25

The NHL has postponed all of their major summer events - the awards ceremony, combine, and NHL Draft, which was scheduled to be in Montreal. Make up dates have not been determined, and it's very possible they could be conducted over the phone or online via Skype or Google Meet or Zoom or whatever.

- This might be good news for the playoffs potentially happening at some point. If the league is willing to move back these dates, then it's more likely the playoffs could begin in mid to late summer.

Thursday, March 26

The Colorado Avalanche announced that one of their players was also diagnosed with coronavirus, making him the third NHLer to test positive. Thankfully, the player has recovered and is currently resting.

Claude Giroux, Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, and Marc Staal held a joint press conference today on Zoom. They talked about their thoughts on resuming the season, staying in shape, and what they're doing in their free time. G said that the Flyers tried to have a team FaceTime yesterday, but everyone was shouting and it didn't go too well (what I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall for that). He also bought an Xbox, but lost twice to Scott Laughton in FIFA. Riveting times, folks.

Saturday, March 28

A second Colorado Avalanche player has tested positive for COVID-19, making him the fourth NHLer to do so. The player is in self-isolation, according to the club.

Wednesday, March 31

The NHL has extended its period for players and staff to self-isolate through April 15.

The city of Toronto banned public events and festivals through June 30. However, this does NOT effect sporting events. From David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod on Twitter), the ban is exclusively for city-led events.

Saturday, April 4

Donald Trump held a conference call with leaders from all major sports organizations. Gary Bettman represented the NHL on the call.

Trump reportedly hopes to have fans back in the stands by August or September. He also said he wants sports to be on the front-lines of repairing the economy.

- While it's great to hear someone as important as Trump be optimistic and helpful towards sports, we probably still have a long way to go before any sports are played, and even more before they are able to have fans in attendance.

Tuesday, April 7

In a talk with Mike Tirico on NBCSN, Gary Bettman talked about the NHL's potential return. He mentioned the possibility of moving games to a neutral site(s). He reiterated the NHL's desire to finish the regular season, although acknowledged that may not be possible. And he reassured that quality of ice would not be a problem if games have to be played throughout the summer.

A third Colorado Avalanche player tested positive for COVID-19, making him the 8th NHL player to do so (the other five are all Ottawa Senators). The player is in self-isolation.

Thursday, April 9

The NHL is apparently considering another way to make the standings fair for teams that haven't played the same number of games. The league could roll back the standings to where everyone was when they had played 68 games. Here's what that would look like, per TSN's Frank Seravalli (who reported the news).

- That's right - under this system, the Flyers would actually win the Metro. It seems stupid to me (why not go by points percentage?) but I'll take the higher seed if we can get it.

Tuesday, April 14

The NHL extended its period for players and staff to self-isolate through April 30.

Florida declared sports an essential business, opening the door for professional sports to return in the state without crowds.

- While it's good to see there's a path to sports returning, we obviously still have a long way to go. There are two NHL arenas in Florida; BB&T Center in Sunrise (home of the Panthers) and Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay (home of the Lightning), which gives the league more options to work with.

Wednesday, April 22

Elliotte Friedman reported that the NHL is no longer considering resuming the playoffs at one singular location. ESPN's Greg Wyshynski said the league is looking to resume in "2-4 of (the NHL's) arenas where the COVID-19 outbreak has been managed and restrictions would allow it." The Athletic's Michael Russo believes that Minnesota is one of about 10 sites the league is considering (he officially said about 2/3 of the league has been ruled out, which would mean about 21 teams).

Thursday, April 23

Larry Brooks, who covers the Rangers for the New York Post, reported that at least one NHL team is planning informal workouts as early as May 15 before the projected three-week training camp to help prepare from a potential restart.

- I hope I'm wrong, but that seems really early considering the curve is just starting to flatten in many areas, not to mention the potential for a second wave. Hopefully it comes to fruition, but if there's any doubt, better safe than sorry.

Monday, April 28

Not sure if this has been public yet, but worth noting that Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk is one of six NHLers on the NHL's Return to Play Committee, which is what it sounds like. JVR is also the Flyers rep for the NHL Players Association (every team has one). The other players on the Return to Play Committee are Toronto's John Tavares, Edmonton's Connor McDavid, Ottawa's Ron Hainsey, and Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele.

Monday, May 11

I plan to update this with some of the stuff we've learned in the last two weeks soon, but first for today's breaking news. The AHL has cancelled the remainder of their 2019-20 regular season and the 2020 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Phantoms weren't going to qualify for the playoffs, but it still stinks.

More to come...