With less than two weeks before NHL clubs are set to gather for training camps and Phase 3 of the Return to Play plan, a spattering of reports that some players are concerned with the health risks of playing amid the recent spike in COVID-19. Frederik Andersen echoed some of the uncertainty that lies ahead, but the Leafs goaltender is cautiously optimistic that the league will make its return.
"I'm not quite 100% confident yet. The league is very adamant at working towards that. I think once we get to the hub cities, everyone will have to be confident and the league will have a good setup." Andersen said in a conference call on Tuesday. " There's a few things that need to be figured out. We have (to) vote on it. I think we still have a little bit of ways to go. I'm sure that the NHLPA and the league are heavy into discussions and trying to figure out any issues there. I think once we have the hub cities set up and secure enough, I don't think there should be any really doubt, because if it's a if it's a closed environment, then we should be fine."
Andersen spent time in Arizona with teammate Auston Matthews during the shutdown, but departed for California to work with his trainers and returned to Toronto before the recent spike. The Leafs goaltender avoided answering when asked about reports of Matthews testing positive for COVID-19 and indicated that he has been able to get on the ice and practice with teammates at the Ford Performance Centre.
Over the weekend, the odds of Toronto being a hub city have increased as Vancouver and Los Angeles being eliminated, but Andersen does not believe that will be an advantage in any way for the Leafs.
"Once everyone (is in a hub city), I think people will be familiar with the hotel, the rink, all that stuff.” Andersen said. There won't be fans obviously, so I think it'll be pretty (an) even playing field for everyone. The flight (to the hub) I think that's the only difference."
Other than health concerns, the other major factor is the league and NHLPA negotiating a memorandum of understanding towards a new collective bargaining agreement. There has been progress towards a four or five year extension which would result in a flat salary cap and a cap on escrow percentage, but an important part of that agreement will be the league resuming play this summer.
“I don't think I have just one (question about returning), but the whole thing in general (has) to make sense. Future CBA stuff (and) safety is very important, but just the whole context of all that stuff and what we can agree on with the league." Andersen said. "I'm confident that we'll have something to vote on and hopefully play. I want to play, I don't want to just sit and waste the summer and the season, so hopefully we'll see soon."
*******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******