BOSTON (CBS) — Most sports leagues have plans to get back to work next month, after halting play in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the outbreak still gripping the nation, there are some serious roadblocks in the way.
On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the Tampa Bay Lighting have been forced to close its training training facilities after three players and two staff members tested positive for the virus. The team will continue to test players and staff, and the hope is if there are no further positive tests, the team will be able to continue on with the NHL’s Phase 2 and reopen its facilities.
If not, we may be waiting a little longer for the NHL to return.
I believe it’s three players and two staff who tested positive. Remaining players and staff are being tested. If no further positive tests, expectation is training facility will re-open, Phase Two will continue. If there are further positive tests, well, we will see what happens.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 19, 2020
The team that has temporarily shut down its facilities, as initially reported by @TSNBobMcKenzie is Tampa Bay
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 19, 2020
The NHL is still exploring host cities for its return, which will consist of 24 teams jumping right into a new-look playoff format. Training camps are set to begin on July 10, with play likely resuming sometime in early August.
If more NHL teams have their own COVID-19 outbreaks within the locker room, the league may have to revamp or reconsider its plans for a return. The Boston Bruins reported last week that a player had tested positive, but has since had two negative tests. All Bruins players participating in voluntary workouts at the team’s practice facilities in Brighton have been tested, and all tests have come back negative as of last week.
Also on Friday, it was reported the Philadelphia Phillies closed its facilities in Clearwater after five players and three members of its staff tested positive. Clearwater is just 23 miles away from Tampa Bay. Additionally, the Toronto Blue Jays shut down its facility in Dunedin Thursday after a player exhibited symptoms.
Friday’s news doesn’t bode well for the NHL though, or the other leagues that were looking to have “bubble seasons” in Florida. Both the NBA and MLS have plans to restart their seasons at Disney World in July, but with an outbreak gripping Florida, those plans may soon be up in the air.