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Canes opposed 24-team NHL return to play format but are eager to play

Chip Alexander, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in Hockey

"The health of the Players and Club personnel is our top priority," the NHL release said.

And still the biggest question. Restarting a season during a global pandemic will have many challenges, the most pressing being keeping an outbreak from occurring. There is no virus vaccine and it is a very contagious virus. Constant testing and other stringent safety precautions -- social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting -- will have to be taken.

"I think it can be done safely," Martinook said. "I don't think they would let us come back if it wasn't safe. Safety is definitely the main key. It doesn't look good if we come back and then a bunch of guys get sick."

That would likely be a season-stopper, something no one wants.

"I think they've done their due diligence and hopefully and we can come back and we can play and everybody can get through it safely and give some people something to cheer about," said Martinook, a forward in his fifth full NHL season.

Martinook, 27, said the NHLPA player rep call was heated and that "other teams were on the fence." According to multiple media reports, the Tampa Bay Lightning was the only other team to vote "no" on the 24-team format.

In addition to opposing the format, there also is the problem of players potentially being away from their families an extended period of time, in workout, training and then in completing a 24-team format and awarding the Cup. Martinook is married and has a young child and said the idea of being away has caused some family stress.

"But there's probably a ton of doctors who are out there and not around their families because they're exposed to (COVID-19)," he said. "There's so many people in worse positions than us. "

 

What might the playoffs look like? The Hurricanes were 38-25-5 after 68 games -- ranking sixth in the Eastern Conference with 81 points -- and held the first wild-card playoff spot when the season was suspended. If the teams are seeded and bracketed according to point percentage in a restart, the Canes would be the No. 6 seed and face the New York Rangers in the play-in round.

Martinook wasn't sure how many of the Canes players are currently in the Raleigh area, saying maybe less than 10. With Phase 2 voluntary, he said some players might wait it out until a training camp schedule is set.

Despite the team's opposition to the format, Martinook said the Canes' players want to get back on the ice and compete for the Cup. He chuckled when noting returning to games, because of safety concerns, could mean full face shields and such things as no spitting allowed.

"I know everybody on our team wants to win, wants to come back and play," he said. "It's going to be different. It's going to be crazy. It'll be something you can tell your kids one day, that you got to play this crazy playoff. And hopefully after this go back to some normalcy."

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