On March 17, 2020, the Ottawa Senators announced one of their players has tested positive for the coronavirus. The undisclosed player has mild symptoms and is in isolation. The team is currently in the process of notifying anyone who may have come in close contact with the player and team doctors have asked all members of the Senators organization to remain isolated, monitor their health, and seek advice of team medical staff should they experience any symptoms.
In a statement, the team said, “The health of our players, fans, and community remains our highest priority. We will continue to do everything we can to help ensure our players, staff, fans and the greater community remain safe and healthy during this time of uncertainty due to the spread of the coronavirus.”
This is the first diagnosed case of the coronavirus in the NHL since the league suspended operations on March 12, 2020.
Notably, just before the league suspended operations, the Senators were on a California road trip, with games schedule on March 7, March 10, and March 11 against the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, and Los Angeles Kings. The Senators played their game against the Sharks on March 7, 2020, despite Santa Clara County’s recommendation against large public gatherings just days earlier, and the Senators stayed in California for games against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings before the NHL season was suspended.
The Senators’ March 11 game against the Los Angeles Kings, at the Staples Center, came just one day after the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets played at the same arena against the Los Angeles Lakers. Recently, the Nets announced that Kevin Durant and three other Nets players have contracted COVID-19. While many have speculated the players may have been exposed to the virus at the Staples Center, reports that the Senators used the same dressing room as the Nets have been recently retracted. Further, any speculation that NHL and NBA players contracted the virus at the Staples Center is based on pure conjecture as it is unclear if the undefined Senators player attended the March 11 game or if players contracted the virus at the Staples Center or different locations.
Regardless, it is clear we may be without professional hockey for an extended period of time. A timeline for the return of the NHL is unclear as Commissioner Gary Bettman has merely said the NHL season will resume when it’s “prudent and safe to start back up.” On the other hand, the American Hockey League , the primary developmental league for the NHL, recently announced that its indefinite suspension will not be lifted before May 2020 and the Kontinental Hockey League , Russia’s equivalent to the NHL, announced that it would suspend operations until April 10, 2020.