You have to give credit where credit is due, so full credit to the NHL with how they've handled the COVID-19 pandemic and the league's Return to Play plan. Since players have convened on the league's hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto there have been exactly ZERO cases of COVID-19 within the NHL's "bubble". I'm not one to heap praise on Gary Bettman and the NHL's executive brass, but they've done an admirable job managing things. Again, there are zero cases in the league. The players are safe, the fans are safe and we've all been treated to some excellent hockey. Job well done, NHL.
But here's the thing... the first big hitch in the NHL's plan may be on the horizon. The province of Alberta has officially placed the city of Edmonton under provincial health watch as COVID-19 cases in the province's capital have begun to surge. Figures by the province of Alberta released yesterday show 572 active cases in Edmonton, with an infection rate of 56 per 100,000 people. By comparison, Toronto has 264 active cases – 8.93 per 100,000 people. That's concerning.
But, what does it all mean for the NHL and the Western Conference teams currently competing in Edmonton? Don't forget that the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final are all slated to take place in Edmonton, as well. Does this news change things? No one really knows.
“This may be an Edmonton-specific wake up call,” said provincial health minister Dr. Deena Hinshaw. “It’s critical that each one of us thinks about our activities and thinks that COVID will stop with us. The activities we engage in, the behaviours that we do, we need to make sure that we are protecting those around us by not spreading or being in a situation where we could potentially spread COVID.”
With Edmonton's "bubble" officially closed to outsiders one would think that the players are safe from any outbreak (big or small) in Edmonton, but it's worth noting that the league was planning to "open the bubble" to family in friends as the playoffs march on. While things are very much in a "touch and go" state right now, it's hard to imagine the NHL opening the bubble should cases continue to surge. Stay tuned.
For more info from The Edmonton Journal, click below: