With concern over the COVID-19 outbreak growing both internationally and here in North America, the NHL took steps to prevent the spread of the virus Thursday, shutting down the season for the time being until it’s deemed safe to bring fans, players and staff together again.
It’s an unprecedented move for the League and the sports world at large, as seemingly every major sporting league and event has come to a halt in the wake of COVID-19’s impact. Speaking with Sportsnet 590’s Brian Burke, Jeff Marek, Anthony Stewart and Justin Bourne on Hockey Central, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman shed light on the league’s thinking leading up to the decision to halt play.
“We had, throughout the last few weeks, been constantly analyzing what was evolving, what the situation was, and what our responses need to be, and what all the possible contingencies could be,” Bettman said Friday. “We were exploring whether or not it was going to reach a point in time we needed to completely shut down, whether or not we needed to take a break, or how we would continue to play — whether it was in all empty buildings relative to fans, or in part-empty buildings, depending on what local jurisdictions were doing.
“But in all of those scenarios and in every discussion I would have, either internally or with clubs, particularly owners, I would always end it with the caveat, ‘You understand that if a player tests positive, we’re done for the time being, at least.’ So I always understood that to be the case.”
When Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert test positive for COVID-19, spurring an immediate hiatus from the NBA, the NHL felt it was best to follow suit and get ahead of a similar situation occurring in the hockey world.
“I said, ‘At this point, it’s inevitable that an NHL player at some point is going to test positive. We’re not going to get through this current season as scheduled, and we might as well just shut down now so that we don’t get to the point that we have to react the way the NBA did,’” Bettman recalled.
With the 2019-20 campaign now on hiatus with a timeline yet to be determined, and certainly not set in stone, the commissioner also detailed how he and the league’s senior staff are handling the situation.
“We have an internal task force that has been meeting two times a day, in the morning and afternoon, and we are exploring every contingency. We’re looking out in [the] calendar to see, ‘Well, what’s the last day we could be playing under other scenarios?’ and then backing it up. And then what are our options in the timeframe that’s available?” Bettman told Sportsnet 590.
“We’re doing all sorts of modelling, whether it’s completing the existing regular season as is and then a full playoffs, or whether or not based on time constraints we’re going to have to make adjustments and do something different, novel, creative.”
Bettman later elaborated on what that potential playoff format could look like if and when the league does return this season, with the post-season picture mostly in view but plenty of clubs still with room to have climbed back in had league play not been paused.
“We are looking at every contingency and what’s doable, so yes, everything – for consideration – is on the table,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that any of those are going to happen. I don’t want to speculate as to which direction we’re going in. We are analyzing every conceivable option that is available to us, and that’s not something that’s static. In other words, what’s an option today, there may be different options – fewer options, more options, who knows – next week.
“And so, my hope and expectation is that we can finish the season in some form, award the Stanley Cup, and then be able to move on knowing that we accomplished that goal of finishing the season for our fans.”
Senators who tested positive for coronavirus have recovered, coach says – NHL.com
The six members of the Ottawa Senators organization who tested positive for the coronavirus, including two players, have recovered, according to coach D.J. Smith.
“Everyone’s doing good,” he said Wednesday. “The good thing is that everyone that had [the coronavirus] didn’t have horrible symptoms, you know, what we’re seeing on TV and in some of the people that have really struggled. Some guys didn’t feel well. But being athletes, they all got through it.
“And they’re all on the other side of it now. … I think it’s important that you see this disease doesn’t spare anyone … actors and actresses, rich, poor, you’ve got to make sure that you stay safe, and I’m really glad that everyone that was involved in our organization and on that plane (during a three-game trip through California from March 7-11) is now doing well.
“But certainly, a scary time. … It hit us, but at the same point, probably saved a lot of us too. … We probably got a little bit of a jump on this.”
The Senators played in the last NHL game before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, a 3-2 loss at the Los Angeles Kings on March 11.
“Guys were aware that an NBA player tested positive that afternoon, or right around 5:00, but us being out on the West [Coast], we were ahead of it,” said Smith, who is in his first season as an NHL coach. “And there was some question whether we were going to play. … It certainly was a different atmosphere than any other game I’ve been a part of. We just waited for direction from the League.”
The Senators are 25-34-12 and in seventh place in the Atlantic Division, but Smith said he’s optimistic they will finish strong if the season resumes and go into the offseason feeling good about themselves, especially off their play at Canadian Tire Centre, where Ottawa is 18-13-6.
“I’m hopeful that we can get out of the house and get back to work and get joking with the guys,” Smith said. “We want to finish on the right note and finish with the message of how we’re going to work right to the very end, to the very last buzzer, and give the fans what they deserve. I think this season at home, they got to see how hard we played, and we wanted to play right to the end tough. So certainly, I want to get back.
“But we’ll just listen to the guidance from the NHL. We’re going to play hockey at some point, it’s just a matter of when.”
The Senators have not identified the players who tested positive for coronavirus.
Smith said he’s looking forward to watching players like 20-year-old forward Brady Tkachuk, 23-year-old defenseman Thomas Chabot and 23-year-old center Colin White continue to develop when Ottawa begins playing again.
The Senators will have to return with a positive mindset, he said, in order to improve and get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs; they have not qualified for the postseason since 2016-17, when they lost to the eventual champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
“Our mentality has to change,” Smith said. “It’s time for us to take a step, and how big a step that is, we’re going to find out. But we want to take a step, certainly mentally, and that’s with the Tkachuks and Chabots and Whites and these guys, so that when you watch the best teams in the League, the Washington Capitals, the Boston Bruins, when they come to the arena they expect to win every night.
“There’s a difference between expecting and knowing that you can win every night, and in time with as many good young players that we have and all the draft picks we have, we’re going to be one of those teams. Everyone wants it to be sooner than later.”
Tom Brady goes there with Howard Stern, re Belichick – Toronto Sun
Now former Patriots QB dishes for more than two hours
Tom Brady guested for more than two hours Wednesday on Howard Stern’s unsensored SiriusXM Radio show.
And, yes, the no-holds-barred host went far down every audacious and raunchy road with his questions for the star NFL quarterback — from how often he has sex with his supermodel wife Giselle Bundchen (enough, Brady said) to whether he has suffered concussions in football (multiple, Brady said).
Mostly, though, Stern kept drilling deep down into the relationship the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting passer had with his now former head coach in New England, Bill Belichick.
Brady — who revealed he had been a huge fan of Stern for years — obliged throughout with thoughtful, revealing answers to almost every one of Stern’s questions, no matter how probing, playful or crass.
The 42-year-old granted Stern a level of access and on-the-record frankness every NFL reporter this century has dreamed of.
Among Brady’s top revelations about his departure from Foxboro:
On whether he ever asked Belichick to pull a lazy or failing receiver out of the lineup:
“I (could) definitely express my opinion to say, ‘If you put him out there, I’m not going to throw him the ball because the whole team is trusting me to do what’s right by the team. So you can’t put someone out there that I don’t believe in — because if I don’t believe in him, then it’s worthless for the team.’
“Fortunately for me, coach Belichick always saw it the same way as me, which is why I think we have such a great connection … I think that’s why I was a great fit for that system, because we saw the process of winning very much the same way.
“Rarely did I ever need to go up to a guy and say, ‘Listen, you’re f—ing the team.’ He would know that from someone else before I would ever need to get to him.”
On whether he sensed Belichick was ever resentful that his successes in New England always were seen as joint successes with Brady — and whether he thought, “F— Belichick. I’m the reason for our success here”:
“I think it’s a pretty s–tty argument, actually, that people would say that.”
Brady said he would not have been as successful in New England if Belichick weren’t his head coach.
“But I feel the same in, in vice versa as well. To have him allowed me to be the best that I could be. So I’m grateful for that. And very much believe that he feels the same about me, because we have expressed that to each other.”
On whether Brady resents Belichick for not making him a Patriot for life:
“No. Absolutely not.”
Because moving on to Tampa Bay is a chance, he said, “to experience something that’s very different. There are ways for me to grow and evolve in a different way that I haven’t had the opportunity to do — that aren’t right or wrong, but just right for me.”
On whether not retiring as a Patriot might affect his legacy:
“I never cared about legacy. I couldn’t give a s–t about it … It was because it was just time (to leave) … I accomplished everything I could in two decades with an incredible organization, and an incredible group of people. And that will never change, and no one can take that away from me … or us.”
On rumours Belichick wanted to bring in a new quarterback in recent years, perhaps, in part, to prove he could continue the Patriots’ winning ways without Brady — and whether Brady viewed that as disloyalty to him, and whether it influenced his decision to leave:
“I think he has a lot of loyalty. He and I have had a lot of conversations that nobody has ever been privy to, and nor should they be. So many wrong assumptions were made about our relationship, or about how he felt about me. I know genuinely how he feels about me. Now I’m not going to respond to every rumour or assumption that’s made, other than what his responsibility as coach is to try to get the best player for the team not only in the short term but in the long-term as well. So what I could control is trying to be the best I could be in both of those situations also. So I got into unchartered territory as an athlete because I started to break the mould of what so many other athletes had experienced. I got to the point where I was an old — or an older athlete — and he’s starting to plan for the future, which is what his responsibility is. And I don’t fault him for that. That’s what he should be doing. That’s what every coach should be doing … I recognized that. We talked about it.”
On when he decided when he wanted to move on from New England:
“I don’t think there was every a final, final decision. But I would say I probably knew before the start of last season that it was my last year. And I knew that our time was coming to an end.”
On saying goodbye to Patriots owner Robert Kraft in person a few weeks ago and together calling Belichick to likewise inform him:
“Yeah, I was crying. I’m a very emotional person.”
On why he didn’t have more in-depth talks with the Las Vegas Raiders:
“They could probably speak to that more than me … There were probably a lot of different teams that were interested in me, I would say.”
He would not elaborate on how many teams, or which others.
Lafreniere on what he can bring to a team; Byfield talks Malkin comparisons – TSN
The NHL released their final rankings for 2020 NHL Entry Draft Wednesday and Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield were first and second among North American skaters.
The two talked about the upcoming draft on Wednesday after the rankings were unveiled.
On his excitement for the Draft:
“Growing up it’s the dream of every hockey player. To see how close we are right now it’s exciting. It’s really fun, I think we’re all excited for the draft. The team that’s going to draft me, I’m going to be really happy to join them and try to have as much success as I can.”
On his skills and being ranked No. 1:
“I’m a leader and I always want to win. When the game’s on the line I can make a difference and I think that’s a strong asset that I have. For sure there are some other really good players in the draft so it’s really special to be (ranked) No. 1 for sure.”
On the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation:
“It’s a pretty weird situation that we’re in right now but I think everyone is doing their best to stay fit and personally I train at home. It’s not the same but I’ll try to stay fit and spend time with my family that I don’t see really often during the season. I try to spend as much time as I can with my family and try to train as hard as I can.”
On how he’d describe his game:
“It was definitely a big year for me. I think I’d describe myself as a hockey player as a big, two-way forward that tries to play a 200-foot game … I think the strongest part of my game is definitely my skating for a big guy. I try to use that to my advantage and find my teammates in the offensive zone and set them up.”
On comparisons to a current NHL player:
“I’ve definitely drawn a couple comparisons out there. I think Evgeni Malkin, that’s just an honour to be compared to that guy. He’s a (future) Hall of Famer. I’m definitely watching as many Penguins games as possible just to see what he does on the ice and how he plays. He’s a big 200-foot centre and the amazing offensive ability he has and how he plays is just unbelievable. I definitely watch him quite a bit and try and mold my game after him.”
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