The return of the NHL is not imminent. That much was made clear in an update issued by the league Monday that mentioned the possibility of starting a training camp at the end of April and permitted players to leave their current NHL cities and travel home, even outside North America.
“We just want everybody to take care of themselves,” Wild General Manager Bill Guerin said.
After the NHL paused its season Thursday amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, players were instructed to self-quarantine at residences in or near their NHL cities or another primary residence in North America where their families were living.
But those restrictions were lifted after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Sunday that in-person events consisting of 50 people or more throughout the United States be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks.
Players are to continue to self-quarantine through March 27 unless a longer period is required because of travel. As of Monday afternoon, Guerin said no Wild players had decided to leave but the team was still working to gather information.
“I’m sure they’ll be a few guys that want to venture out,” Guerin said, “but I don’t know that yet.”
None of the Wild players has been tested for COVID-19, an illness caused by exposure to a novel coronavirus, and no one has exhibited symptoms, Guerin said. As far as he knows, everyone has been self-quarantining.
“They’re taking it very seriously,” Guerin said. “There’s been good contact back and forth. I’ve been communicating as much information as I possibly can with the players, and I know that they’ve been listening and heeding the warnings and the precautions of dealing with this. So, they’ve been really, really good.”
In a memo sent to players Friday, the NHL detailed a plan that would transition players from self-quarantine to being able to work out at team facilities and then eventually practicing in a training-camp environment. The league stressed that players will be given enough time to resume skating and prepare for games before action resumes.
When self-quarantine ends and depending on developments related to the coronavirus, the NHL will consider opening team facilities to players in scheduled and coordinated small groups for voluntary training.
“We can’t expect them to come back like they just left off,” Guerin said. “It’s impossible.”
The NHL hopes to open a training camp approximately 45 days into the 60-day period outlined by the CDC, which would occur at the end of April. Typically at that time, the NHL playoffs would be in full swing.
As for the American Hockey League, its indefinite suspension will last at least until May. The AHL suggested teams help players return to their primary residences.
On Monday, the Wild reassigned Matt Bartkowski to Iowa after the defenseman was recalled under emergency conditions Feb. 28. Bartkowski did not appear in a game during this latest call-up. Monday was the deadline to loan players back to the minors.
While the NHL remains on hold, players are expected to stay in shape. They’ve been told to avoid public gyms, and Guerin said players have personal gyms at home. Strength and conditioning coach Sean Skahan has also communicated to players ideas of what they can do if their home doesn’t have a personal gym setup.
“These are different times,” Guerin said. “I’ve never seen this before. Players are doing the best they can. Everybody’s doing the best they can.”