June 30, 2020

NHL players opting out of playing due to COVID-19 concerns is inevitable

Players like Kaapo Kakko could be forced out, or some may opt out due to COVID-19 (Getty Images)

Cases of COVID-19 are spiking again in the United States. This has led many in the hockey world to believe that Vegas may lose its place as one of the NHL Hub Cities giving way to both Edmonton and Toronto. However, the real concern for the NHL will be the players themselves opting out of returning.

MLB and NBA players opting out of returning due to virus

Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals posted a message that he will not play baseball this season. In it he wrote: “After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances – three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk – I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season.”

He is not the only MLB player that is opting out either as the list is now at four. There are also seven NBA players including DeAndre Jordan of the Brooklyn Nets that have decided they will not return. So when will we get our first NHL player to make an announcement?

NHL players have expressed concerns due to COVID-19

More NHL positive COVID-19 cases (FTHN Edit)

Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers issued a statement expressing his concerns recently. The Blueshirts leading scorer said, “I have concerns not only about the health of players and their families but also about the longterm prosperity of the NHL.”

Another star who opened up was Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. “It’s a very unusual situation. I want the opportunity to be able to play for a Stanley Cup, but I want to be able to continue living life normally,” he explained.

Those are two prominent names expressing the obvious potential health issues that returning players are facing. The virus is not gone and there is no vaccine to date.

While we know the mortality rate is low for healthy young adults, it is still a risk. And we do know this is a highly contagious virus that 26 NHL players out of 250 have tested positive for since phase 2 started on June 8th. Including superstar, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

An NHL player opting out is inevitable

An NHL player opting out of returning is not a matter of if, but when. Max DomI of the Montreal Canadiens and Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers are two young players I can think of off the top of my head that are diabetic. Both Domi and Kakko have expressed a desire to play and their teams will be consulting with doctors throughout. By the time Phase 4 rolls around, desire to play or not, simple science may keep them from participating.

However, there’ll be a player, just like baseball’s Zimmerman that has a wife or child with pre-existing conditions that will not take the risk. The NHL still plans to forge ahead, but every team needs to prepare themselves with the real possibility they may have to do so without the lineups they expect.

No NHL player has opted out yet, but imagine the repercussions if Sidney Crosby decides not to return. Or maybe it’s Alex Ovechkin who has two small kids. The bottom line is that there’s plenty of hurdles to overcome, including a new CBA extension. Once all those issues are resolved, you can bet we will get a handful of players who make statements similar to Ryan Zimmerman.

Be ready. Those statements are coming.

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