Detroit — No Red Wings players have been tested and none have come down with the coronavirus, one week after the NHL season was suspended.
Coach Jeff Blashill said Thursday, to his knowledge, the organization and playing roster have been able to steer clear.
“Nothing to my knowledge, or our hockey team,” Blashill said of whether any player has been affected or exhibited symptoms. “Nor has any of our hockey team members been tested to my knowledge. They’ve all gone their separate ways, (but) to my knowledge, and we’ve kept close tabs, nobody has been tested.
“No one’s met any of the requirements needed in order to be tested.”
Only one NHL player — an unnamed player from the Ottawa Senators — is publicly known to have contracted the virus.
Since the NHL allowed players Monday to return to offseason homes, the majority of Wings’ players have left the Detroit area.
“Our players are all over the place in their homes, whether that be the Czech Republic, the United States, Canada and Sweden, wherever that might be,” Blashill said. “They are there, or making their way there.”
Blashill touched on a variety of issues Thursday, on a day, normally, he would have been preparing his team for a quick road trip to Arizona and Vegas.
Having the regular season paused exactly a week ago – the Wings were preparing to play the Washington Capitals in D.C. – has been “weird’, Blashill said.
“When I first got back and I woke up the next morning, I almost didn’t what to do,” Blashill said. “The end of the year is always hard for coaches, no matter what, because you go from going 100 miles per hour to zero whenever your season ends. Usually, you see the end in sight or you’re in the playoffs, you know it might end.
“This was exceptionally abrupt.”
Blashill had one clear message when he addressed his team in Washington last week.
“Go home and stay safe and that was the last real message I was able to communicate to them directly,” Blashill said.
There has been rampant speculation on social media about whether the NHL even resumes its season, and possibly goes straight to the playoffs if it does.
One report, coming from TSN in Canada earlier this week which gained traction, suggests top players in the league would like the regular season to resume around July. Playoffs would take place in August in September, with October a month to do the Entry Draft and free agency.
The 2020-21 regular season would begin in November.
Blashill saw the plan but wasn’t overly optimistic.
“I read the same headlines and thought to myself, ‘that’s late,’” Blashill said. “My gut feeling is there’s a lot of potential restraints that would make that proposal potentially not doable.”
Blashill and his staff want to be prepared for whatever decision takes place — although the longer the pause extends, the more difficult it will be to resume a season.
“I just want to be prepared for whatever I’m told,” Blashill said. “This is a National Hockey League decision that’ll be made by Commissioner (Gary) Bettman and I have to make sure I’m prepared for any decision that is made. Having a skeleton in place of how we would attack those days of a potential mini-camp, we’re doing that.
“If we play our games, we need time to ramp up just from an injury prevention. I also certainly understand the longer it goes, the less chance of that happening.”
As many fans would love to see a Stanley Cup champion — and, of course, the season resumed — the obstacles, but most importantly, everyone’s health, is paramount
“Everybody would love to see the Stanley Cup awarded, and everybody would like to get back to normal as quick as we can,” Blashill said. “But that might not be reality. We’re going to take it day to day, wait, and see what tomorrow’s reality is.”
The Wings share Little Caesars Arena with the NBA's Detroit Pistons, who along with the Utah Jazz — who played the Pistons at LCA days before both sports leagues shut down — have had players test positive for coronavirus.
But Blashill emphasized there is separation between where the NBA and NHL players and coaching staffs congregate.
“We do have totally separate spaces,” said Blashill, adding the two teams are rarely there together. “I haven’t run across a Detroit Pistons coach or player in my time of going back and forth from my office to our parking area.
“To say we come in contact with each other would be false.”
Blashill recollected what a strange day March 12 was in Washington for the Red Wings, who arrived in DC the night before and were mentally prepared to play.
But watching the headlines come over about restricted travel from Europe, then Jazz player Rudy Gobert contracting the virus, Blashill knew the situation was getting serious.
“After that we saw the NBA was going to suspend their season,” Blashill said. “When I saw that, I thought that’s going to have a huge direct effect on us.”
Blashill told his players that morning to prepare to play a game, but the NHL canceled all morning skates and meetings.
“The coaching staff went over to the rink,” Blashill said. “We were at the rink when we received the message that there were to be no (skates, meetings, practices). We canceled our morning skate and we basically said, sit tight and wait to hear.
“We made arrangements to get home if the season was suspended or paused. But even at that point we weren’t sure should we be going home, or going to Tampa (next game on road trip). How serious was this going to be?”
The NHL paused its season around noon, and the team was back in Detroit around 5:30 p.m.
“As it got off that plane, I certainly had no idea whether or not we would play more hockey this year or not,” Blashill said. “I don’t know any more today than I knew then in terms of that.”