March 30, 2020

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NHL players free to go home

Patrik Laine can head home to Finland and follow that country's self-isolation rules when he arrives. (Jeffrey T. Barnes / The Associated Press files)</p>

Patrik Laine can head home to Finland and follow that country's self-isolation rules when he arrives. (Jeffrey T. Barnes / The Associated Press files)

All NHL players have been told they must remain away from the rink but are free to return to their regular off-season homes in a move that suggests a potential return of hockey remains far down the road.

Until now, all members of the 31 teams were under orders to sit tight in their playing cities while awaiting further instructions, but a memo sent by the league on Monday gives the all-clear to disperse, including overseas, provided there are no travel restrictions in place which would curtail those plans.

The NHL, like all sports leagues around the globe, is on an indefinite shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. All games were paused as of March 12, with just over three weeks left in the regular-season.

Players are still being advised to self-quarantine at home until at least March 27 unless a longer period is required in accordance with mandates related to travel, the NHL said.

Once that date passes, the NHL says it will consider allowing club facilities to open for a return to skating and training in scheduled and co-ordinated small groups.

As well, the leagues makes reference to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation on Sunday that all events with 50 or more people be cancelled for the next eight weeks. The NHL suggests this could mean a potential opening of training camps in about 45 days.

Using those timelines, it would appear the earliest return to action would be camps in late April and games by mid-May. Team owners, including Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, have said they've been asked to provide arena dates through the end of July with a potential extension of play until that time.

A number of options are being considered by the NHL about a possible return to action.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler took to Twitter on Sunday night, sharing a message with his nearly 86,000 followers.

"What a week. Life as we know it has changed. Let's take care of each other. Stay home and limit your exposure to keep yourself and those in your community safe," Wheeler wrote. "Jets fans: You should be immensely proud of your team. I know I am. We’ve stayed in the fight. Hopefully we get to finish the season, but just know we laid it on the line every night. Stay safe!"

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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