Positive coronavirus tests among NHL players don’t make Leafs’ Spezza less optimistic — Toronto Sun

In the bubble, Jason Spezza will trust. Read More

Positive coronavirus tests among NHL players don’t make Leafs’ Spezza less optimistic — Toronto Sun

In the bubble, Jason Spezza will trust.

That’s if the National Hockey League successfully advances to Phase 4 of its Return to Play plan in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Spezza, the veteran Maple Leafs forward whose rosy outlook and experience carried considerable weight in the dressing room during the 2019-20 regular season, remains confident that the NHL is on the right track to resume games, even with the news late last week that 11 NHL players have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“There’s lots of people everywhere testing positive,” Spezza said on Tuesday during a Zoom call with media. “As players, we realize there is going to be some risk of a positive test.

“I put trust in the league and the PA (NHL Players’ Association) that we’re going to come up with a bubble scenario that will keep everybody safe. The biggest challenge would be getting to that point, because we’re not in a bubble scenario right now.”

The NHL announced five days ago that the 11 positive tests had resulted from the 200-plus NHL players who had been tested since June 8, when team facilities were permitted to open for voluntary training. Postmedia’s Steve Simmons reported that one of those players who had a positive test result was Leafs centre Auston Matthews, who has remained at his off-season home in Arizona to train.

“It probably becomes a bit of a reality check for making sure that everybody is doing everything possible hygiene-wise to make sure we are not spreading it,” Spezza said, speaking of the positive tests in general.

“We knew there was going to be positive tests. It’s probably good there has some positive tests because it gives us some practice on how to deal with it.”

Spezza has been enjoying the workouts at the Ford Performance Centre, skating in a group that includes forwards Kyle Clifford and Kasperi Kapanen, defenceman Calle Rosen and goaltender Eamon McAdam, a former Leafs farmhand who played for Adirondack of the ECHL last season.

As much as Spezza is glad to be back on the ice with an eye toward starting Phase 3 and training camp on July 10, the 37-year-old has taken full advantage of the NHL pause to spend as much time as possible with his wife Jennifer and their four daughters at their Toronto home. To that end, the family has been preparing for the idea that Spezza potentially will be away for at least several weeks, living in the Phase 4 bubble in one of the NHL’s two hub cities once the post-season starts.

“We have had family conversations about it and it’s not going to be easy, especially after having three months of probably the best family quality time I’ve ever had with my kids and wife,” Spezza said. “It’s going to be a big adjustment and there will be some tears involved.

“They understand that Daddy has a dream of trying to win a Stanley Cup and there are not too many more years left. It’s a big family sacrifice and they are on board with it.”

Spezza has been sticking close to home during the pandemic, noting that the Leafs have been helpful in ensuring players and their families have the resources to be safe.

At the same time, players will have to fight the temptation to get some normalcy back in their lives, especially with the NHL determined to hold the playoffs and eventually award the Stanley Cup.

“My bubble is pretty tight as it is and there is not a whole lot of going out and doing things,” Spezza said. “Most of my time has been spent going on walks with the kids, playing outside.

“I have avoided stores. The team did a phenomenal job in helping us with groceries and really doing everything possible to make sure we don’t have to be exposed if we absolutely don’t have to be.

“One of the biggest challenges for players is that as everything around us starts opening up, we almost have to tighten up because we’re going back to play and that is going to be an adjustment for us.

“We have to probably be a little more careful as we get close to training camp.”

tkoshan@postmedia.com

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