The NHL’s new protocols, designed to help contain the spread of COVID-19 in the league, could affect the routine of a few players.
But San Jose Sharks trainer Bob Boughner said it is everyone’s job to adjust and focus on what they can control in an increasingly unpredictable year.
As more players become unavailable due to league logs, the NHL announced new security measures on Thursday, including removing the glass panels from behind team benches to improve airflow and allowing players to enter arenas Ban up to 1 hour and 45 minutes before the game time. Typically, some Sharks players arrive three hours before the puck is lowered.
All 31 teams must also try to provide six feet of space between people in the locker room, and all team meetings must become virtual.
While at home, the Sharks must already adhere to Santa Clara County’s rules for professional and college sports teams, including keeping within six feet of social distance from other athletes and staff at all times.
« Take out the jar and things like that will be a little different for us, » said Boughner. « But we’ve tried to be so safe since day one. Further procedures are perfectly fine with us. »
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The reception of the new protocols was mixed. Some consider it a necessary adjustment. Others, like Winnipeg Jets striker Andrew Copp, think the measures are too strict.
« We have people showing up here before (4:00 pm) for a (7:00 pm) game, » said Copp Thursday morning, hours before the Jets were due to host the Calgary Flames. « It’s about getting your mind right, getting your body right, bringing out the best possible product for the fans, and trying to reduce injuries as much as possible. » I mean, this is pretty much the only place we’re allowed to go.
« Really upset about it. Really upset about how this is going to work. We’ll fight that for sure. »
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Thursday afternoon that, after hearing player complaints, the NHL and NHLPA were in the process of adjusting the arrival time for players on match days.
The NHL and NHLPA are in the process of optimizing the protocol that changed the arrival time of players on matchdays. As we heard from Andrew Copp and Mark Scheifele this morning, the players are not happy with the reduction in preparation time.
Boughner mentioned Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns as two Sharks players who like to arrive much earlier than an hour and 45 minutes to play.
« But it’s one of those years, » said Boughner. « We have to be flexible and adapt and we knew things would come when we got to training camp. » Nothing is normal about this season.
« We’re going to make sure we’re following the protocol. Whatever else is going on, our job is to win hockey games. »
Both Marleau and Burns have active Ironman flicks that come into play with the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. Marleau’s streak of 862 games dates back to April 2009. Burns’ streak, which began in November 2013, is 549 games.
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The new rules will affect players’ routines, Sharks captain Logan Couture said, but « This is not a regular season. With everything that’s happening this year, nothing is normal for us or anyone in the world So in my opinion, it’s not that big of a deal. »
As of Thursday morning, 40 NHL players were unavailable due to COVID-19 logs and four teams – Vegas, New Jersey, Buffalo and Minnesota – had season suspended.
On Wednesday, the Wild added five players to the COVID list as the NHL announced that the season in Minnesota will be suspended until at least next Tuesday and team facilities will be closed until further notice.
Reasons a player may be put on the COVID list are a positive test, an unconfirmed positive test and / or contact tracing.
The Sharks had one player, striker Max Letunov, on the NHL’s COVID-19 list at the start of the regular season. He returned to the Barracuda for his training camp later in January.
The Barracuda found out last Saturday while playing against the Henderson Silver Knights in Las Vegas that an as yet unknown player had tested positive. The team has since moved back to Arizona but canceled their scheduled season opener against Tucson on Friday.
« It’s crazy. It seems to be everywhere in the league here, » said Sharks goalkeeper Devan Dubnyk. « So we have to do our best. If that’s a reminder for everyone to be extra hardworking if we had slipped a bit – I don’t know if that’s the case, these things will happen, these (positive) tests will come regardless of what you do . But it’s a good reminder just to be extra careful. »
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DEBUT, TAKE TWO: All the indications are that Sasha Chmelevski, a Huntington Beach native, is getting dressed for his first NHL game on Friday. Chmelevski would become the fourth California-born player to play a game for the Sharks along with Craig Coxe (Chula Vista), Scott Parker (Hanford) and Matt Nieto (Long Beach).
Chmelevski was supposed to dress in the Sharks game with the Colorado Avalanche on January 28th, as coach Bob Boughner had him in line with Patrick Marleau and Stefan Noesen. However, the transaction process in which Chmelevski was transferred from the taxi cadre to the Sharks’ active roster was not completed on time.
WEEKEND SERIES: Boughner said both Sharks goalkeepers will play this weekend, although it was not known whether Dubnyk or Martin Jones would start on Friday. The teams will also play on Saturday, the first of 11 times this season that the Sharks play games on consecutive evenings.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB: Boughner said striker Rudolfs Balcers and defenseman Fredrik Claesson will join the Sharks in Anaheim for their morning kate on Friday. Boughner said Balcers could play Friday if needed, but it would be more ideal if he had more time with the team first. He could play Saturday. Defender Nicolas Meloche will join the Sharks on Saturday.
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