The NHL inched ever so closer toward the 2020 postseason today when it announced that it is planning on starting training camps on July 10th. The keys words in that statement are "and the parties have reached an overall agreement on resuming play".
The NHLPA agreed with the playoffs format. But it hasn't taken a vote yet on actually playing said playoffs. Florida Panther Anton Stralman raised player concerns in a recent article in The Athletic.
“It would be terrible if we fly into hub cities and start playing, and maybe one of the workers in the building gets it. It’s not just the 50 guys on the team, there’s a lot of people that need to be there to make this work. If some of those people get sick and potentially die from that, who is responsible? And is this something I want to be part of? It’s about the safety, not just for me but everyone involved. That raises a lot of questions on if we should do this thing. And if we do, would there be a price to pay for it?"
“I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do.”
“I think the main thing is safety. And I don’t think we should be obliged to be prioritized over people that actually need it way more than we do. There are so many people in this world right now that are going through some really tough times. I think all hockey players and owners should consider themselves fairly lucky to be where they’re at."
“I know that not everybody has families, but I don’t think any (player) likes the fact we’re going to fly in and be away from our families for a long period of time. And I have more questions about the reason for this: Is it to recover some revenue? What is the calculation? I assume flying 24 teams to two cities and keeping them protected in a bubble at hotels, with all the medical and required personnel that you need for such a long time, it has to be expensive."
“How does it add up, and is it worth it? Profit and money should never come over health and safety.”
As a 33-year-old guy in his 13th NHL season, Stralman obviously has a perspective that comes with both playing and life experience that likely differs from his more youthful peers. But you'd have to be a fool to think that there aren't other members of the NHLPA thinking similar thoughts. And like 17% of players, Stralman is still overseas so his decision is a heavier one than guys already on North American soil (leaving your family across the Atlantic Ocean for up to 2+ months is just a tad different than being a car ride away).
As Devan Dubnyk noted a few weeks ago, there's also the matter of the NHLPA vote. It's not known whether the players will have a full member vote instead of the one vote per team used on the format. Either way, that could get...interesting (i.e. a player does not want to risk things for health reasons but then is contractually obligated to play).
There's also the "medical and safety conditions allow" aspect. If you've been tracking COVID upticks in states that "opened back up" and also have NHL teams, then you know this could potentially be an issue going forward.
I want the NHL playoffs as much as anyone. I'm just not gonna be a fucking Pollyanna about things.
There's still a lot of major shit to take care of and both the NHL and NHLPA are working their asses off to make it happen. But today was a few more baby steps toward what we all want.