The NHL closely followed suit after the NBA decided to suspend its season on March 11, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that the first NHL coronavirus test came back positive. According to a report from The Athletic with confirmation from deputy commissioner Bill Daly, an anonymous Ottawa Senators player tested positive for the viral infection.
“From our perspective, as we indicated in the release as we hit the pause button on the season, the virus’ impact on our community was inevitable to a certain extent so it was only a matter of time until we were going to have our first player test positive,” Daly said.
As outlined by Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside in the report, the NBA may have inadvertently had a role in the situation. It’s now known that four Brooklyn Nets players tested positive for COVID-19, and Ottawa played the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center the day after Brooklyn took on the Los Angeles Lakers in the same building. Of course, the players were not the same, but arena staff — the people whose livelihood is still being negotiated by owners and leagues — theoretically may have spread it from one league to the other, while it has been shown that coronavirus can live on surfaces for a few days.
Institutions’ (from sports to government bodies) lack of a quick reaction to the outbreak is also likely at fault here. That Senators-Kings game was the final NHL match before the league went on hiatus. The Senators’ game in Northern California against the San Jose Sharks also went on as planned despite the recommendation from Santa Clara County officials to limit large gatherings as it became clear the region was becoming a coronavirus hotspot.
Every member of the Senators is now in isolation, according to the report, and deputy commissioner Daly said a “fairly small number” of NHL players have been tested for COVID-19.