Mitch Marner has one eye on July 10, the scheduled opening of training camps for 24 NHL playoff teams, and the other on a worsening COVID-19 situation in the United States.
Three months after the league shut down, could it be the dreaded second wave of the disease derails the methodical plan to finish the 2019-20 season? Marner, the creative winger on the Maple Leafs, has faith the league will take every precaution as it nears a decision on the two hub cities who will host the tournament, at least one of them expected to be south of the border.
“I think they’re going to do what’s best for their athletes and make sure that they’re willing to look after us and take care of us,” Marner said Thursday on a conference call with Toronto reporters.
As he spoke, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey reversed a previous decision and authorized local governments to require face coverings in public as his state was flagged as one of the current COVID-19 hot
Marner was asked about two key Leafs who are there in Scottsdale who’ve yet to come back for the workouts at Ford Performance Centre. Leading scorer Auston Matthews and house guest/goalie Frederik Andersen have been in Arizona almost since the start of the lockdown.
The duo’s reasoning is they’d rather stay in their regimen of daily workouts than come home and be unable to leave their residence for a full 14 days under the Canadian quarantine. As July 10 nears, they and others hope the Canadian NHL cities get a bit of a break from the government and that practice facilities would be designated as part of the players’ restricted zone for the 14 days.
“All that stuff’s voluntary,” Marner said of his friends preference to wait it out.
Toronto has been in and out of the running among 10 NHL cities initially identified by commissioner Gary Bettman as potential hubs. Together with Vancouver and Edmonton, there is a push to have the Canadian government alter the two-week quarantine rule so at least one of the cities can reap some economic benefits from empty hotels being occupied by up to 50 players and staff of the 12 teams. Las Vegas is believed to be a favoured American
Marner and five to six Leafs at a time continue to work out in preparation for the best of five opening round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, like the others, tentatively scheduled for sometime in August.
As expected, the Jackets announced Thursday that star defenceman Seth Jones will be ready for the series, activated off injured reserve with fellow blueliner Dean Kukan.`