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We’re two weeks out from the scheduled start of summer camp — do you know where your Jets are?
Certainly not here in Winnipeg, which remains a pro hockey ghost town while other NHL markets revving up for a potential return to play next month see a flurry of activity.
Not a single Jet was in town as of Thursday, despite a provincial relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions that cleared the way for a handful of those currently in Western Canada to return this week without having to quarantine for 14 days.
"No change in the number of players here. No date determined as to when to begin Phase 2 here," said Scott Brown, director of communications for the Jets.
It's safe to say Phase 2, which began June 8 and allows players to voluntarily skate at their home facility in small groups and be subject to COVID-19 testing (11 of approximately 200 NHL players have tested positive), is going to be much ado about nothing around here. That ship has basically sailed.
The focus around the league is about to shift to Phase 3, which is the proposed start of mandatory on-ice training for all 24 teams still vying for the Stanley Cup. The July 10 launch date and related health and safety protocols still have to be confirmed in a final vote by the NHLPA, but you're not alone in wondering what that will look like in Winnipeg.
Turns out the organization is still trying to figure it out.
"Too many balls in the air at this point to really give any types of details of what's coming next. Once things are a little more settled we'll likely share some information," said Brown.
As things stand, every Jets player skating on their own in Eastern Canada, the United States and Europe — and that is nearly all of them — would be required to isolate for two weeks upon returning to the city. That means those not back here by Friday are playing a dangerous game of chicken with government and health officials, one that could potentially keep them off the ice two weeks from now unless something changes.
The feds recently said they would grant quarantine exemptions to NHL players if one of Vancouver, Edmonton or Toronto is chosen as a hub city to host the playoffs in Phase 4, which is expected to begin in late July. A decision on that front is coming in the next few days.
However, there's been no clarity yet on whether they'd allow a similar relaxation for players returning to Canadian NHL markets for Phase 3, including Winnipeg, Calgary and Montreal, which aren't on the short list to be hub cities.
If such a move isn't made, several teams including Vancouver and Calgary have indicated they'd look at taking things south of the border, where the COVID-19 curve continues to grow at an alarming rate in many states. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff previously said that wasn't being considered here, but he hasn't been made available by the team in recent weeks for an update.
In other words, things remain clear as mud right now, with the ticking clock getting increasingly louder.
"I don't know anything about anything," Jets sniper Patrik Laine told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanoma earlier this week.
You can also throw Bryan Little's status onto the pile of unanswered questions. The veteran Jets centre, who suffered a gruesome head and ear injury in November after being hit with a Nikolaj Ehlers slapshot, has been recovering ever since and his status remains unknown.
The team has yet to make him available for interviews but Little did chat Thursday with CTV's morning show as part of a sponsored promotion between the station and St. Boniface Hospital.
He wasn't specifically asked about whether he'd be ready to play if the puck drops later this summer but gave a brief update on his health.
"Pretty good. I had surgery to fix my ear about three months ago, so that's healed up pretty nice. Just working out at home, training like the rest of the guys I assume. Just waiting to see what happens."
In that sense, Little is in the same boat as a lot of us right now.
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