New York Rangers: Another step back to hockey

Informal workouts for New York Rangers players to start in June

The NHL has communicated with all teams including the New York Rangers that they are preparing to enter “Phase 2” of their return to sport protocol. It means that players will be allowed to begin working out in preparation for the resumption of play.   This is a huge step, but we are still far from seeing any games and the date for this phase is still up in the air.  The plans were released by the NHL in a communications from the league to all NHL players and management.

Phase 2 will allow teams to re-open their practice facilities so that small groups of players can conduct informal workouts with some supervision from team staff.  The number of players can be no more than six and participation in these sessions is strictly voluntary.  The only indication when this will happen is that the league is targeting “early June.”

If there is any question of health risk, it’s worth looking at the protocol.  It’s is a lengthy document and goes to great lengths specifying restrictions and guidelines.  To read it , click here. 

The protocol calls for social distancing, frequent testing and quarantine.  That means that any Ranger players who left the area and have to take commercial airlines back to New York will have to self quarantine for 14 days before they can enter the team’s practice facility.

Players who live in the metropolitan area or can drive back to New York, will not have to do that, but will have to be tested before they are permitted to take part.  If a player is out of the region and has access to another team’s facilities, the NHL will try to make that possible.

While a maximum of six players will be allowed to skate at a time, there is no contact permitted and they must maintain the minimum six feet separation with other players.   While it will be nothing like actual team practices, it will get players back on the ice and in workout rooms while the league does its best to guarantee safety.

Players abroad

One question that it does raise concerns players who are not in the area.  Rookie Kaapo Kakko posted an Instagram story showing him on the ice in Finland working out with two other Ranger prospects.

Since he is in Finland, he has been able to skate and practice.  Returning to the United States, he currently would be forced to self-quarantine for two weeks before he could go anywhere near the Rangers’ practice facility.  It may be more valuable for players like him to remain where they are so they can continue to stay in shape and wait until some of the restrictions have been lifted and teams can conduct actual practices and scrimmages. However, if the self quarantine restrictions continue, it may be best for all members of the team to try to get back to the New York City area as soon as possible.

Practice facilities

All teams like the Rangers are at the mercy of local regulations regarding whether they will even be allowed to use their practice facilities.  Those regulations vary from state to state and even from town to town.  On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that  “New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps in state while following appropriate health protocols.”

Phase 1 for the NHL was the self-quarantine of all NHL players.  Phase 2 is the resumption of informal workouts.  There has been no definition of what Phase 3 will be, most likely the resumption of organized and structured training including contact scrimmages.

While Phase 2 is a very big step towards getting back to action, there will be challenges and if there are any spikes in COVID-19 cases or if any players test positive, it could be a real setback for resumption of play.  Considering that the NHL wants to try to start play with that expanded playoff format as soon as the beginning of July, even with Phase 2 beginning in early June, that is a very ambitious time frame.