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Is the NHL ready to return?

As the NHL appears close to announcing a return to play form, are they ready to return to play with public health at the forefront or are they trying to come back when the conditions are not right for sports yet?

Vancouver Canucks v Winnipeg Jets

Based off of this tweet from Renaud Lavoie, the NHL is truly not ready for the NHL to return in the middle of a pandemic. Outside of them not having a detailed plan about where they would acquire the tests from or who would process them or what would happen if there is a positive test, there are the problems that Renaud lists above.

There are players who have diagnosed autoimmune diseases like Type-1 Diabetes. There are players who have diagnosed or undiagnosed anxiety or other mental health issues that are struggling right now. Allowing these players to opt-out is a safe idea, but the practice is a lot more uneven.

Max Domi is a player with an autoimmune disease. He is at greater risk for getting covid-19 and dying from it than me and my healthy immune system. But he is an extreme example of someone that the NHL has to look out for and make sure is safe. What about the bigger unanswered questions about everyone who is actually playing.

Who will provide the tests? Tests are in a limited supply in some places and the players health and safety should be no higher than anyone else’s. Say they secure the volume of tests they need to safely play, who will run the tests? What happens if someone does test positive? These are all legitimate questions that need to have firm answers before play is resumed. The NHL cannot come before public health. They are no more important than other people and they should not pass by other people requiring tests like the Calgary Flames did when they acquired the H1N1 vaccine when it was still going to those who needed it most in Alberta.

This begs the question: is the NHL actually able to resume play? Should they simply call the season and spend more time outlining how the 2020-2021 season should look? Players have not been able to work out or skate like they normally do. They have not had access to their team facilities and skating rinks for close to two months now. They are simply not in game shape anymore.

The NHL wants to come back and that makes sense. But just because it makes logical sense, does not mean it makes practical sense. There are too many practical issues left unanswered for the NHL to return in full right now. As great as it would be for the NHL to come back, until they answer some simple questions they should probably remain on a break and come up with answers that also meet public health needs.