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Expect some NHL players to opt out of returning due to COVID-19 concerns

Sportsnaut logo Sportsnaut 7/1/2020 Anthony Scultore, Sportsnaut
Brian Clough et al. posing for the camera: Artemi Panarin of the Rangers is an NHL player who has expressed concern about playing during the coronavirus pandemic. © Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Artemi Panarin of the Rangers is an NHL player who has expressed concern about playing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cases of COVID-19 are spiking again in the United States. This has led many in the hockey world to believe that Vegas may lose its place as one of the NHL hub cities. giving way to both Edmonton and Toronto.

Brian Clough et al. posing for the camera: Artemi Panarin of the Rangers is an NHL player who has expressed concern about playing during the coronavirus pandemic. © Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Artemi Panarin of the Rangers is an NHL player who has expressed concern about playing during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the real concern for the NHL will be the players themselves opting out of returning.

MLB and NBA players opting out of returning due to virus

The fallout has begun in both Major League Baseball and the NBA. The list of MLB players opting out is now at four. 

In the NBA seven players, including DeAndre Jordan of the Brooklyn Nets, have decided they will not return, either.

Recently, Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals posted a message that he will not play baseball this season.

“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances – three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk – I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” the World Series champion wrote.

NHL players have expressed concerns due to COVID-19


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Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers issued a statement expressing his concerns recently. The Blueshirts leading scorer said, “I have concerns not only about the health of players and their families but also about the long-term prosperity of the NHL.”

Another star who opened up was Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. “It’s a very unusual situation. I want the opportunity to be able to play for a Stanley Cup, but I want to be able to continue living life normally,” Price said.

Those are two prominent names expressing the obvious potential health issues that returning players are facing. The virus is not gone, and there is no vaccine to date.

While we know the mortality rate is low for healthy, young adults, it is still a risk. And we do know this is a highly contagious virus that 26 NHL players out of 250 have tested positive for since phase 2 started on June 8. That includes Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

An NHL player opting out is inevitable

An NHL player opting out of returning is not a matter of if, but when. Two young players I can think of off the top of my head are diabetic. Both Max Domi of the Canadiens and Kaapo Kakko of the Rangers have expressed a desire to play and their teams will be consulting with doctors throughout. By the time Phase 4 rolls around desire to play or not, simple science may keep them out.

However, there’ll be a player, just like baseball’s Ryan Zimmerman or the NBA’s Avery Bradley who have a wife or child with preexisting conditions who will not take the risk. The NHL still plans to forge ahead, but every team needs to prepare itself with the real possibility they may have to do so without the lineups they expect.

No NHL player has opted out yet, but imagine the repercussions if Sidney Crosby decides not to return. Or maybe it’s Alex Ovechkin who has two small kids. The bottom line is that there are plenty of hurdles to overcome, including a new CBA extension. Once all those issues are resolved, you can bet we will get a handful of players who make statements similar to what Ryan Zimmerman said.

Be ready. Those statements are coming.

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