Will Blackhawks players be eligible to play when the league resumes?

Hockey feels so close to being back that you could almost taste the over-priced concessions at the Mad House on Madison.

Sadly Chicago Blackhawks‘ fans, the league is still stuck in phase 2, and with the news that 11 players tested positive for COVID-19, a return to play seems further away than ever.

The news about players testing positive right now is a hot topic, and rightfully so. However, the league still appears to be set on resuming play. Which begs the question, can the league, or individual teams sanction players for not returning to play this year?

It seems like the answer to this would have to be a firm, “no” because of all of the current government regulations around the importance of self-isolation.

However, the players are under contract. As long as the players association is willing to go ahead with entering phase three and getting things underway, then players will likely need to show up for work, so to speak. In a report from June 18, Lias Andersson of the New York Rangers is staying in Sweden when(/if) the NHL resumes. Can anyone stop him? Does anyone blame him for not returning?

For the Blackhawks, this could be interesting. Adam Boqvist put up a post showing him apparently on an airplane wearing a mask, and a t-shirt with the message, “Back to work”.

Take social media with a grain of salt, but the post is from a couple of days ago. Should everything proceed as it has been, then Boqvist will be able to play. What about some of Boqvist’s teammates that will almost certainly be expected to be in the lineup against Edmonton, such as David Kampf?

Will he be back in time, or at all?

In an article by Michael Russo and James Mirtle in the Athletic, the situation looks a little ambiguous on the return to play. Interestingly enough, Russo and Mirtle quoted the Minnesota Wild’s Devan Dubnyk saying,

“What they were saying is, if we were to sign the CBA (extension) on July 9, we could start training camp on July 10. But if we wait and guys don’t come in a short enough amount of time to get the quarantine rules out of the way, we could sign it but then it’s another two weeks on top of that. I think everybody agrees that if we’re going to do this, we might as well get going. And the sooner the better. So they’re hanging on to that July 10 date. That would be ideal, but I don’t know if it’s realistic.” (Italics added)

This will impact players like Kampf, Kubalik, Carlsson, and Maata. If they aren’t back soon, and play does resume, then Chicago may have to wait until these players make it through quarantine protocols. What if they don’t want to come back? Is there anything Chicago can realistically do to get them back on the ice? Until an agreement is reached, it isn’t clear how this sort of thing will be managed.

While the immediate future is murky, everyone seems to aware of the risks involved. And in case you wanted a ray of sunshine to give you some hope, several of Europe’s top soccer leagues have resumed play, including Italy’s Serie A. If they can pull that off, so can the NHL.