After only a few days of trying to get the show back on the road, the Bruins found out the inherent challenges of inching back toward the business of hockey amid a pandemic, announcing Friday morning that one of their players had tested positive earlier in the week for the COVID-19 virus.
According to general manager Don Sweeney, the unidentified player, who was tested three times in recent days, has been asymptomatic since reporting for his first test at the team’s Warrior practice facility in Brighton for the start of league-approved voluntary workouts.
The player’s first test was positive, but both subsequent tests were negative, according to the club’s release.
Sweeney, during a Zoom session with reporters at noon, added that the affected player will not be eligible to work out until after another COVID-19 test next week.
It was the first reported instance of a Bruins player testing positive for the coronavirus since the NHL shut down for business March 12 (93 days ago) because of the pandemic.
“I think everyone is learning how we properly interact and distance and react to the original test results,” said Sweeney. “This [workout] phase is a voluntary phase, but I think we are learning and we’ll continue to learn throughout, as the players go through it and, really, however everybody interacts.”
When asked how many players have participated in workouts this week, Sweeney said, “We don’t have access right now to watching players, so we are not monitoring the number of players on the ice.
“We have a lot of players that are in the area that are going to access the facility, and again, some of the guys are still going through their protocols and such.”
Per agreement between the NHL and the Players’ Association, the 24 clubs eligible for the playoffs (to start approximately Aug. 1) must make their facilities available to any player in the league, regardless of club affiliation.
Because of such a high concentration of NHLers in the Boston area, the Bruins facility on Guest Street could be a high-traffic center for players looking to work out the kinks of a three-month hibernation.
The league and the NHLPA announced Thursday that full, mandatory training camps are scheduled to begin July 10. Once those camps begin, players will join their clubs in their respective cities.
Sweeney named five of his players, expected to be here for the July camp, who returned to their homes in Europe during the shutdown: Anton Blidh and Joakim Nordstrom to Sweden, and David Pastrnak, Jakub Zboril, and Dan Vladar to Czechia.
Sweeney said the club has adhered closely to the protocols established for the return-to-play plan announced May 26.
“It’s an all-encompassing process in terms of opening the facility,” noted Sweeney. “There are a lot of protocols. We’ve hired — and every club has been required to hire — a facility hygiene officer. We’ve done that.
"Kathleen Saunders is our representative, and she’s done a fabulous job from an oversight standpoint in conjunction with our medical professionals.”
According to Saunders’s LinkedIn profile, she is a registered nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she has been employed for nearly four years, and was a member of the Bruins marketing team for just over two years, 2017-19.
“I feel very comfortable with what our staff is doing,” said Sweeney. “We’ve got small-pod groups [of players] set up, and there has been no intermingling between the pods.
"On the surface, it is certainly challenging — sanitization of equipment, masks, all the things that are unnatural for all of us have become more and more natural in recent days.”
The planning is in place. The coronavirus remains in charge.