According to a series of tweets by Sportsnet’s Eric Engels, as many as 75 percent of current NHL players aren’t sure they want to return if the season officially starts up again. Between the feeling they aren’t privy to all the health and safety information they should be and what happens once things resume, there’s a feeling the negatives outweigh the positives.
Engels posted a number of tweets citing some of what was told to him by a number of NHL players, all of whom wanted to remain anonymous. The feedback ranged from players having no desire to return, others suggested the NHLPA wasn’t being honest, to others noting that players will return, even if they don’t really want to. The culture of hockey and the toughness of the athletes will bring players back.
Over the last 2 days, I’ve been speaking with players from around the NHL who are quite concerned about a return to play. I’m going to paraphrase some of those sentiments over a few tweets here. I want to stress every player I spoke with requested anonymity for obv reasons .
One player said a majority of the players do not want to return to play this summer. Estimated 75%. Though they’re concerned with financial pitfalls of that decision, they’re more concerned about risking contracting the virus/serious injury before cramming in the 2021 season.
Another player said that calls with the NHLPA have been “a joke” and that they have only revolved around the financial situation.
Another player shared the following opinion after acknowledging that players will likely vote yes to the eventual proposal that gets brought to them (he then posted screen shots of the conversation with the player).
Engels finished with, “All players I spoke with are frustrated about being kept largely in the dark about how they’ll safely be able to resume play.”
This Is Not Good News
The players health and safety, and by association the health of safety of their families, has to be the top priority. It sounds like a number of players don’t feel the NHL is taking that seriously. And, with 26 positive cases now confirmed from 250 tests (that’s more than 10%), it’s easy to see why.
There is a real sense of frustration with the NHLPA for not sharing important information, and while it sounds like some players are ready to walk, others will come back regardless. Either way, the feeling from Engels tweets is that the players aren’t going to be happy about it.
One has to assume the announcement of the hub cities will play a big role here and that could be why the announcement has been delayed so many times. If the NHL gets this wrong, and players feel it’s unsafe to play in a state like Nevada where COVID-19 cases have shot through the roof, perhaps they’ll bail on the season.
Some Players Are Simply Waiting
The small number of players at NHL camps could also provide evidence that the athletes are concerned. Most camps have only a few players on the each roster and if training camps were to open on July 10, there is still a long way to go.
Players may be waiting. We know at least one is.
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen told Chris Johnston of Sportsnet he is just waiting to hear what ongoing NHL/NHLPA talks and what comes of those talks in terms of a CBA extension, plus health and safety protocols around hub cities. “I want to play. I don’t want to just sit and waste the summer and the season. Hopefully we’ll see soon.”