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New MLB rules: shower at home, don’t spit, Mr. Met stay home – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball will look somewhat like high school ball this year under protocols to deal with the new coronavirus, with showers at ballparks discouraged and players possibly arriving in uniform, like they did when they were teenagers.

Team personnel will be banned from eating at restaurants on road trips.

Even the Phillie Phantic and Mr. Met will be missing, banned from the field along with all other team mascots.

The traditional exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps, and bat boys and girls, according to a 67-page draft of Major League Baseball’s proposed 2020 Operations Manual. A copy was sent to teams Friday and obtained by The Associated Press. The guidelines, first reported by The Athletic, are subject to negotiation with the players’ association.

Teams will be allowed to have 50 players each under the plan, with the number active for each game still be negotiated.

Spitting is prohibited along with water jugs and the use of saunas, steam rooms, pools and cryotherapy chambers. Hitting in indoor cages is discouraged, batting gloves encouraged.

Batting practice pitchers are to wear masks, dugout telephones disinfected after each use. Players may not touch their face to give signs, and they’re not allowed to lick their fingers. Teams are encouraged to hold meetings outdoors, players spread apart.

Teams were asked to respond with their suggested input by May 22. The protocols were written by MLB senior vice-presidents Patrick Houlihan, Bryan Seeley and Chris Young, and vice-president Jon Coyles. Young is a former pitcher who retired after the 2017 season.

Protocols include details on testing for team staff, who are divided into three tiers. All others may not enter clubhouses, dugouts and the field.

Seats in the empty stands near the dugout should be used to maintain distance, according to diagrams in the manual, and the next day’s starting pitcher can’t sit in the dugout. Everyone must keep their distance during “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America,”

Fielders are “encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner” between pitches. First and third base coaches are not to approach baserunners or umpires, and players should not socialize with opponents.

Managers and coaches must wear masks while in the dugouts. The entire travelling party — including players — must wear personal protective equipment while on buses and flights. Restaurants are off limits on the road, including the ones in hotels, as are hotel fitness centres.

“We emphasize that this is a first draft, and will undergo several rounds of changes as we collect comments and suggestions from the clubs, the players’ association, players, and government officials,” deputy commissioner Dan Halem wrote in an email to owners, team presidents and CEOs, and general managers that accompanied the protocols.

“The document is designed to set minimum standards and identify best practices, but we have attempted to provide clubs with enough flexibility to achieve the desired health and safety objectives in a manner that is tailored to their particular circumstances, including ballpark configuration, location, and the nature of any local governmental regulations or restrictions,” Halem wrote.

Scoreboard video is prohibited but music allowed. While there won’t be fans, at least not at the start, it will provide a familiar background audio for the telecasts critical to MLB’s bottom line.

A ball will be thrown away after it is touched by multiple players, and throwing the ball around the infield will be discouraged. Personnel who rub baseballs with mud for the umpires must use gloves.

“Individuals must avoid any physical interactions (such as high-fives, fist bumps, or hugs) while at club facilities,” the manual says.

Tier 1 people in the plan include players, managers and coaches plus two each from among physicians, athletics trainers and bullpen catchers plus one strength and conditioning coach.

Tier 2 includes clubhouse staff, additional coaches, medical and training staff, travelling staff, owners, front office, translators, communications staff, video personnel, the head groundskeeper and security plus players’ union and MLB staff along with contractors.

Tier 3 covers broadcast personnel and other event services.

Players must wear masks while in restricted areas “except while on the field or engaging in other strenuous activities” and lockers must have at least 6 feet between them. If needed, temporary clubhouse space will be added, preferably outdoors or areas with better ventilation.

“Showering in club facilities should be discouraged,” the plan says. “To the extent showering occurs, clubs should explore modifications to facilities to allow for physical distancing and hygiene” such as installing partitions and limiting the number of players using the showers at the same time.

Teams “should consider requiring (on-field staff) to arrive at club facilities dressed for the day’s activities in order to limit time spent in the clubhouse or locker room.”

Only medical personnel allowed near injured players.

There will be staggered reporting dates for the resumption of spring training. When pitchers and catchers arrive, only five players may work out at a time. Then come full team workouts, with small groups encouraged but not required, followed by exhibition games. There will be intake screening upon arrival followed a self-quarantine for 24-48 hours until results are available. Players not assigned to big league team when the season starts will remain at spring training or another separate facility.

All games at spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona, whether exhibition or regular season, must be scheduled for 7-9 p.m. local time unless MLB gives specific consent.

A fifth umpire would be allowed when the temperature reaches a certain level, allowing for rotation, including sharing of plate umpire duties, Teams should take batting practice on back fields.

Among the road trip changes:

• Use of Uber, subways and public buses is banned.

• Private airports encouraged and if not available, teams are to use private aviation facilities to board and exit.

• Transportation Security Administration screen should take place at ballparks if it can be arranged.

• In-flight catering is limited.

• Lower floors are to be used if possible at hotels, so stairs can be used instead of elevators, and private areas arranged for entrances, exits and check-in.

• Six staggered bus trips will be scheduled to and from the ballpark.

Team staff, including players, will be given thermometers for self screening and are to take two tests in quick succession each morning.

At the ballpark, people will be given temperature checks twice a day and multiple fluid swabs each week. Comprehensive Drug Testing will collect samples and Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City is to provide results within 24 hours.

Family members of players, umpires and the households of anyone covered under the plan will be offered access to testing and PPE. The individuals are encouraged to avoid crowd when away from ballpark.

Anyone with a temperature of 100 or higher or who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms or has come in contact with someone confirmed to be infected will be subject to rapid testing at a nearby site. A person cannot rejoin the team until testing negative twice in tests taken at least 24 hours apart. The person also must not exhibit symptoms or COVID-19, and the team physician and MLB medical staff must determine the person not at risk.

If an individual is exposed to a person with an infection, that person must show no signs of disease, be tested daily for at least seven consecutive days and undergo more frequent temperature checks. The person also must wear a mask at all times except while on the field.

Each spring training and regular season ballpark must have dedicated testing and isolation areas. MLB also will offer testing of people who live in same household as covered individuals and to health care workers/first responders in big league cities.

Most tests will take saliva but there may be oral or nasal swabs. Blood samples will be collected less frequently for serology testing used to detect antibodies.

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Trophy Tracker: Vezina – NHL.com

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To mark the end of the regular season, NHL.com is running its fifth and final installment in the Trophy Tracker series. Today, we look at the race for the Vezina Trophy, the award given annually to the goalie adjudged to be the best at his position as selected by the NHL general managers.

Tuukka Rask turned 33 on March 10, but the Boston Bruins goalie isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Rask once again was among the best at his position this season, going 26-8-6 in 41 games. He led the NHL with a 2.12 goals-against average, was second with a .929 save percentage (minimum 20 games played), and was tied for second with five shutouts.

He also was second in even-strength save percentage (.939) and allowed the fewest goals (85) among the 22 goalies to play at least 40 games this season, 10 fewer than second-place Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers.

A panel of 18 NHL.com writers voted for the winner of the Vezina Trophy at the end of the regular season. The consensus was Rask was the League’s top goalie by a large margin; he received 80 points and 10 first-place votes. Connor Hellebuyck (68 points) of the Winnipeg Jets and Andrei Vasilevskiy (56 points) of the Tampa Bay Lightning each received four first-place votes.

From Jan. 2 until the season was paused because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus on March 12, Rask went 11-4-1 with a 1.84 GAA and a .938 save percentage in 17 games. His play helped Boston win the Atlantic Division and the Presidents’ Trophy as the team with the best record in the League; the Bruins finished 44-14-12 with 100 points. It was the third time they won the award (1989-90, 2013-14).

Rask said he’s hoping to put an exclamation point on this season with a Stanley Cup championship. Rask was the backup to Tim Thomas when the Bruins won the Cup in 2011. He was the starter when Boston lost in the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and the St. Louis Blues in 2019.

“I just try to do my job as good as I can every night, give us a chance to win, and then what comes with that, it comes,” Rask said. “But maybe in the future after I retire and look back, you kind of appreciate yourself more, see what you did.

“This city is known for winning championships and your success is measured by winning championships, and I’ve gotten to the Finals with the team twice as a playing goalie. Didn’t win, but I think it’s still a great accomplishment to reach that point, to go to the Finals. Obviously it would be nice to be known as a champion in those years, but it didn’t happen. We just have to live with that. I think I’ve played a good career so far, and hopefully there’s some more years left and even maybe a championship in the future.”

The Bruins also won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals this season. Rask and Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6, 2.39 GAA, .919 save percentage in 31 games) combined for eight shutouts and helped Boston allow 167 goals, a League-low 2.39 per game. It’s the third time the Bruins have won the Jennings Trophy (1989-90, 2008-09) and the first time for Rask. Halak won it in 2011-12 with the St. Louis Blues.

“[Tuukka’s] proven that he’s one of the top goalies in the League,” Halak said. “He competes in every game, in every practice. He wants to win. That’s the ultimate goal. Obviously we are on the same team, he wants to play [and] if I said I didn’t want to play I would probably be lying. I also want to play, but at the same time we are a team and we want to win as a team.”

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, 80 points (10 first-place votes); Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 68 points (four first-place votes); Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, 56 points (four first-place votes); Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars, 26 points; Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues, 15 points; Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets, 8 points; Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 points; Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks, 5 points; Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs, 3 points; Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers, 1 point; Pavel Francouz, Colorado Avalanche, 1 point.

NHL.com staff writers Amalie Benjamin and Rob Reese contributed to this story

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Maple Leafs' Tavares sees camp with Keefe as 'added bonus' of NHL's plan – Sportsnet.ca

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As the calendar creeps closer towards June and the tally nears four months without live hockey in North America, silver linings for Canada’s favourite game on ice have been hard to come by.

The NHL offered one earlier this week, with commissioner Gary Bettman unveiling the framework of the league’s four-phase plan to resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic if it becomes safe to do so. But the multitudes contained in that “if” are still daunting. The novel coronavirus does not care when the NHL would like to come back, after all.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares knows how many hurdles remain, how many hairpin turns could send the league back to square one, but still believes there’s a “really good chance” hockey is played this summer. So leave it to Tavares, that even-keeled, blue-and-white wearing optimist, to look deeper into hockey’s foggy future and find another light hiding within, too.

“We’ve got to be looking forward to what’s ahead, an opportunity to kind of reset here,” Tavares told Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman during Sportsnet’s #Ask31 Live on Thursday. “[It will be] a good opportunity to get a training camp under [head coach Sheldon Keefe], which we never really got.

“So kind of a little almost added bonus is, with a new coach, you get to really implement a lot more things …and really get those true reps that you need. Which you really can’t get in the season, especially as the season goes on, and the wear and tear, and the rest becomes very valuable. I think that’s definitely a benefit we’re going to get.”

Coaching a team with Stanley Cup aspirations is never easy, and assuming the role mid-season as Keefe did adds another layer of complexities to the mix — implementing redesigned lineups and systems on the fly, all while knowing there’s less room for error because there are fewer games left to be played.

In the 39 games he’s spent guiding the Maple Leafs’ on-ice performance, Keefe has gone 27-15 while ushering in a more free-wheeling — albeit not always consistent — offence that made use of Toronto’s wealth of offensive talent and saw them score the fourth-most goals in the league during his tenure, while posting the second-best power-play success rate.

If that’s what he could cook up in half a season on short notice, there’s at least the chance the time off to examine the ingredients in Toronto’s cupboard and a mini-camp to sample how they mix together could yield a more enticing final product.

Earlier Thursday, Friedman reported that players were informed Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan — the phase which includes training camps — won’t start before July 10. So that “added bonus” and any of its potential benefits is still a ways away for Tavares, Keefe and the rest of the Maple Leafs.

And if Tavares’ optimism is well-placed, if camps can be held, hockey can return and a Stanley Cup can be played for, there will be at least one more new face potentially joining him on the Maple Leafs: OHL standout Nick Robertson.

“I can imagine being in Nick’s shoes and just your hair standing up on end, getting an opportunity to be part of the team in a unique situation like this — an opportunity to help us win a Stanley Cup,” Tavares said.

Expectations accompany opportunities like that, certainly. And nerves, probably. Putting on a Maple Leafs jersey means wearing the hopes of a championship-starved fan base too — not a simple experience for an 18-year-old, to say the least.

Tavares is no stranger to shouldering that weight. He chose it, after all, deciding to sign with Toronto as a free agent, and with that familiarity comes advice for how to navigate it.

“You’re here for a reason,” Tavares said. “You shouldn’t feel that you need to walk on egg shells. You need to be yourself, you need to play like yourself. Never take anything for granted, you gotta go out there and work and earn it — that’s what playing at this level [means].

“…There’s a reason why you’re here and what brought you here, so don’t forget those things. And be yourself. You’re a part of the team, you’re a part of our group, and you mean as much to our team and our success as any one of our core guys.”

Watch Thursday’s edition of #Ask31 Live with John Tavares in its entirety below:

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NHL.com writers vote Leon Draisaitl as Hart Trophy winner – Oilers Nation

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Leon Draisaitl is the winner of the 2019-20 Hart Trophy — at least, that’s what the writers for NHL.com think.

In a survey conducted by 18 NHL.com writers, Draisaitl was given 19 more voting points than his next closest competitor, Nathan MacKinnon.

Draisaitl won the Art Ross Trophy this year as the NHL’s top scorer after posting 43 goals and 67 assists in 71 games.

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Not only that, but he was first in points per game (1.55), assists, and power-play points, with 44. Draisaitl led all forwards in time on ice per game playing 22:37 a night.

The actual vote to determine the Hart Trophy winner will be conducted in a poll completed by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Here’s a look at how the voting broke down:

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Leon Draisaitl, Oilers, 83 points (12 first-place votes); Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche, 64 points (four first-place votes); David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins, 45 points (one first-place vote); Connor McDavid, Oilers, 34 points (one first-place vote); Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers, 30 points; Roman Josi, Nashville Predators, 6 points; Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2 points; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 2 points; John Carlson, Washington Capitals, 1 point; Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres, 1 point; Brad Marchand, Bruins, 1 point

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On Twitter: @zjlaing

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