As it was announced on Friday, three Tampa Bay Lightning players and two staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2. At this moment, the Lightning closed all facilities and sent infected people to self-isolation. Alan published a detailed information on the current situation yesterday afternoon.
Lightning reportedly forced to close training facilities due to COVID-19 outbreak https://t.co/ct0M6bORkR— Raw Charge (@RawCharge) June 19, 2020
Later that evening, the Lightning posted a statement from General Manager Julien BriseBois, where he specified that all positive people are asymptomatic and those who contacted them had been notified. If there will be no further positive tests, the training facilities will re-open.
Joe Smith and Michael Russo of the Athletic have also shared some additional information on the Lightning’s facilities shutdown
On Thursday, the Lightning told players who were planning to come to Tampa to not come yet due to the fluid situation, according to multiple sources. The team confirmed the positive tests on Friday by releasing a statement from GM Julien BriseBois.
Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return to Play plan started last week, the players are allowed to practice only in small groups of six people. The protocol also requires COVID-19 and temperature testes on daily basis, wearing face masks, and keeping social distancing rules during off-ice activities for any person entering the training facility.
However, the Lightning are not the only team facing this issue. According to reports, many sports teams currently situated in Florida have registered at least a few people testing positive for COVID-19. The MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays have also closed their facilities Clearwater and Dunedin respectively. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reported that one assistant coach and two other assistants have returned positive tests.
Bucs, Lightning, USF, Phillies in Clearwater, Jays in Dunedin. Tampa Bay teams all dealing with positive COVID-19 tests. https://t.co/AHjT0g2RcS— Greg Auman (@gregauman) June 19, 2020
To avoid new rumors, the NHL published an official statement last night, confirming that a total of 11 players have tested positive. More than 200 players have undergone testing since the start of Phase 2. The NHL will provide information on the result of those tests on a weekly basis, without revealing names of positive players.
NHL statement on Phase 2 testing. pic.twitter.com/2FBhgdbFsP— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 19, 2020
However, names of some those players have already leaked to the media. Per Steve Simmons, Auston Matthews is one of the players who returned a positive test this week. The Toronto Maple Leafs forward has been practicing at the Arizona Coyotes facilities with some unidentified Yotes players who also tested positive.
POSTMEDIA EXCLUSIVE: Auston Matthews has tested positive for COVID-19. My breaking story: https://t.co/oEAABdUlTU— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) June 19, 2020
Both Arizona and Florida are registering record-high single-day increases in COVID-19 cases almost every day, becoming new epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
However, the current situation didn’t change the NHL’s plans on Phase 3 and 4. Reportedly, the NHL and NHLPA are going to make a decision on hub cities during the next week.
Checked in on this again... Today's reports of NHLers testing positive for Covid-19 has not changed planning for Phase 3 & 4.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 19, 2020
The NHL/NHLPA are still on track to decide hub cities early next week. https://t.co/r2TqcrxB8G
Other News and Notes
As a part of the Juneteenth celebration, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vinik Sports Group closed their offices on Friday.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Executive Vice President Kim Davies also released a statement regarding Juneteenth and announced launching a new NHL resource website, Committing to Change.