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Hurricanes' Justin Williams has coronavirus concerns … But there's a Stanley Cup to be won

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

Published in Hockey

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Justin Williams, like many NHL players, has concerns about returning to play during the coronavirus pandemic.

Then again, there's the chance to win the Stanley Cup. Williams has done that three times in his career, the first with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. Why not a fourth?

To do it, Williams and the Canes must win 19 games, starting with a best-of-five qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. To pull it off, they must do it within the "bubble" the NHL is planning to have in its two hub cities, with the players nearly in solitary confinement away from the rink for about five weeks should their team continue to win.

"My biggest concern, maybe the team's biggest concern, is what if there's an outbreak on the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 and seven of us can't play or 10 of us can't play?" Williams said Tuesday in a media Zoom call. "What happens to the team? Is it a forfeit? Do you wait a couple of weeks?

"That's the main concern that we have. It's not playing the game of hockey because we're all going to go out there and we're all going to give our best to battle for the Stanley Cup. But it would be extremely frustrating having those symptoms and coming down with the virus somehow and not being able to play."

It's a price most will be willing to pay. At 38, Williams might be making one last run at the Cup, which he has triumphantly held with the Canes and then twice with the Los Angeles Kings.

 

"At the end of the day you're handing out the Stanley Cup," he said. "This isn't just going out and playing some exhibition games. This is legit. This is for it all.

"A different circumstance, obviously. But at the end of the day you're going to get your name on the Stanley Cup and no one will be able to take that away from you."

The NHL on Monday announced that the Return to Play protocols and an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement had been tentatively agreed on by the NHL and NHL Players Association. Training camps for the 24 teams will open July 13 and the games will begin Aug. 1 in the two hub cities, which should be Toronto (Eastern Conference teams) and Edmonton (Western).

The NHL health-and-safety regulations once at the hub city and in the "Secure Zones" will be tightly monitored and testing for the virus constant. The players might not not see their families for more than a month if their team keeps winning, although Williams said it won't be "banging-your-head-off-the-wall crazy" and that the players will be together enough.

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