Montreal Canadiens: Testing Players for COVID-19 and Seeing Families

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JANUARY 24: Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media prior to the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JANUARY 24: Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media prior to the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens and the remaining 23 NHL teams now know what to expect in terms of testing players for COVID-19 and when they can see their families.

As the NHL and NHLPA are finalizing a tentative agreement on their Return-to-Play plans, we now have a clearer idea of what will happen if players test positive for COVID-19 as well as how long their families will be separated from them. This is an issue Montreal Canadiens players and players around the league have expressed concern over in the past.

One of the major pieces of news we have learnt is that the NHL is giving its players three days until after the ratification vote takes place to notify their teams if they wish to opt-out of returning to play without penalty. Upon this request, the NHL team this player belongs will then submit a list of the players in their organization who are participating due at another time.

To give an example, if Carey Price wishes to opt-out of returning to play, he would have to submit a letter to the Montreal Canadiens who would remove Price’s name from the list of players who will be joining the team in Toronto for the play-in series.

If multiple Montreal Canadiens players decided they were better off not playing given the circumstances due to the COVID-19 and safety concerns, the organization would have to significantly alter their lineup going into Toronto. Therefore, knowing this information in advance would be to the betterment of the Canadiens if any significant alterations had to be made as well as avoiding any penalties the league may impose on the team.

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Protocol When Players Test Positive for COVID-19 and How Lineups are Affected

Per TSN’s Bob Mckenzie, if a player were to test positive for COVID-19, they would, therefore, be deemed “unfit to play” and will be treated as a hockey-related injury. The organization the player belongs to will not be permitted to disclose any of this information to the media or public prior to acquiring approval from the NHL.

Under the CBA guidelines, players who “are determined to be at substantial risk of developing a serious illness as a result of exposure to the novel coronavirus shall be deemed to be unfit to play and shall not be permitted to participate in either Phase 3 or Phase 4.” This new guideline may play a role in determining if Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi (who has Type 1 Diabetes) will able to participate when hockey returns.

Once again, such events may lead to lineup changes being made to the Montreal Canadiens before they even begin, but this is far from the concern as the safety of the league’s players, staff, and personnel should always take precedent.

How Long Will Players be Separated from their Families?

Nearing the end of April, Montreal Canadiens forward Philip Danault expressed his distaste towards the NHL wanting players to leave their families for months on end. This a sentiment that is most likely shared with other players on the team, such as Carey Price, Jeff Petry or Paul Byron.

Philip Danault, who mentioned early on how he did not want the Montreal Canadiens to be a part of the NHL’s Return-to-Play plan, went on to say how it made little to no sense to be separated from his family for an extended period of time.

"It really makes no sense, in my head, to distance myself for two months from my kid. And I imagine it makes even less sense for those who would go far in the playoffs, who are on playoff teams right now. If a team goes to the Stanley Cup Final, it could be three to four months. It’s inhumane to do that, as far as I’m concerned. But the league has to make a decision and I imagine the players will have to vote on it, and I’m not sure they’ll be in favour of being away from family for two-to-three months."

The initial belief was that the further a team went into the playoffs, the longer it would be that they would see their families. However, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli, players may reunite with their families during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals, which will take place in Edmonton.

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Although this may still be less than ideal for the players and their respective families, the silver lining is the teams who advance through the playoffs do not have to wait until the very end to see them again. The question that now remains is if players would be comfortable having their families fly over from their homes to Edmonton, in turn risking their safety.