PHOENIX – On the heels of a report that the NFL Players Association is concerned about opening training camps in “hot spot cities,” season ticket holders for the Arizona Cardinals are awaiting news on their options for 2020.
The Washington Post reported the NFLPA is concerned about beginning practices in places that have been hit hard by the coronavirus. Arizona is one of those areas, and on Tuesday the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 4,273 new cases and 92 new deaths.
Many teams across the league have already announced plans or been in communication with their season ticket holders. The Arizona Cardinals did not respond to a request for the status of their plans.
The Seattle Seahawks emailed season ticket holders last Thursday, giving them the option to either request a refund on the 2020 season or keep the credit on their account for a 2021 season renewal, the Seattle Times reported.
The New York Giants and New England Patriots are also offering fans an option to skip the 2020 season while being able to retain their seats for 2021.
With a couple of different blueprints in place and the clock winding down on the start of training camp and eventually the regular season, the team is committed to “providing the safest possible environment for our players, staff and fans based on guidance from state and local authorities,” according to a statement it sent recently to season ticket holders.
“Based on the latest available information, the likelihood that we will be able to play all of our games in front of a full-capacity crowd is very low,” the statement said. “As such, we are developing contingency plans for the different scenarios and potential stadium seating configurations. When the overall situation comes into clearer focus and the details of the 2020 plan are solidified we will reach out with an update. We hope you have a safe and healthy summer and look forward to seeing you this fall at State Farm Stadium.”
’Let us play’
Athletes from baseball teams in the Maricopa County Community College District came together to make a video pleading for help in getting the district to allow them to play the 2020-21 season.
Glendale Community College, Phoenix Community College, Gateway Community College, Chandler Gilbert Community College, Mesa Community College and Scottsdale Community College were all represented in the video.
The video comes in response to the district recommending on June 25 to cancel all sports for the school year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, the National Junior College Athletic Association, the governing body of community college sports, recommended Monday to move close-contact fall sports to the spring semester.
“Through a unified effort from our Presidential Advisory Council, the Board of Regents, and leadership staff, our most recent plan of action provides a path that keeps our student-athletes competing at the highest level with proper safety measures in place,” said Christopher Parker, NJCAA President & CEO. “As we move forward as an association, we will continue to provide opportunities for our student-athletes, coaches, and all those involved with the NJCAA to be safe and successful.”
Close-contact sports involved include football, men’s and women’s soccer and court volleyball. The NJCAA cross country championships and half marathon championships will remain in the fall as well as Division III women’s tennis. All winter sports competition is scheduled to begin in January.
The Maricopa County district has not reacted to the news. Critics of their decision have collected more than 16,000 signatures on change.org. Meanwhile, the district held two virtual community forums recently.
Coyotes return to training camp
Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan began on Monday with the first official day of training camp, and the Arizona Coyotes have begun full preparation for a qualifying round matchup against the Nashville Predators.
Unlike Phase 2, which began with voluntary workouts at team facilities on June 8, Phase 3 does not have a limit on the amount of players allowed to participate in team workouts. Coyotes forward Taylor Hall said that it could be hard to mimic game situations in practices, but the team must continue to go as hard as they can given the adjusted protocols due to COVID-19.
“I think everyone in the league is in the same boat, so if you could push yourself and get good rest away from the arena, you’re gonna put yourself in a good spot when it comes to those games,” Hall said.
Some adjustments in Phase 3 include players and personnel conducting symptom and temperature self-checks daily at home before entering team facilities, along with testing at team facilities every other day.
Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said he was “really impressed” with the team’s first day of practice since March.
“They were gassed at the end, but I’ll tell you what, I was expecting them to be gassed halfway through practice and they weren’t,” he said. “It was a good first step to see their conditioning on the first day. Now it’s recovery and see how you react on the second day.”
Tocchet was not the only one impressed with the team’s first practice, as goaltender Darcy Kuemper said it felt great to be back as a team.
“You could definitely feel the enthusiasm out there,” he said. “It was really sharp, really crisp and had a lot of intensity. I think the excitement kind of carried over into the energy. Individually, I felt great, and the team looked really good as well.”
Training camp has just begun, but it will not last long for the Coyotes, with a best-of-five series against the Predators set to begin in Edmonton on August 2. It will be the first game for the Coyotes since a March 9 loss against the Winnipeg Jets.
NHL confirms 43 positive tests for COVID-19
The NHL released a statement Monday regarding league-wide COVID-19 testing from Phase 2 of the Return to Play Plan, with 43 tests confirmed with positive results.
More than 600 players returned to team facilities for Phase 2 activities, which led to 4,934 COVID-19 tests administered to the players. Outside of 30 positive tests returning from players participating in these activities, the league is also aware of 13 additional players who tested positive for COVID-19 outside of Phase 2 protocol.
“All players who tested positive were/have been self-isolated and were/are following CDC and Health Canada protocols,” the statement said. “During Phase 3, the NHL will continue to provide regular updates on the number of tests administered to players and the results of those tests.”
Despite the league also stating that identities will not be revealed with positive tests, Toronto Maple Leafs forward and Arizona resident Auston Matthews had his positive result revealed in a report by the Toronto Sun on June 19.
Matthews was not involved in Phase 2 activities for the Maple Leafs, and was instead training in private with other NHL players in Arizona. The 22-year-old is the only known player to test positive for COVID-19.
Matthews was available to reporters for the first time in months on Monday, and he decided to speak about his experience with COVID-19.
“I was able to do stuff at home. Obviously wasn’t able to leave or skate or anything. That’s kind of really the only thing that took a hit for me,” he said. “But (I was) pretty much asymptomatic. Felt, for the most part, pretty normal for the two weeks, but did my quarantine and feeling healthy now.”
Positive cases of COVID-19 have continued to spike in Arizona, with 4,273 new cases and 92 deaths reported Tuesday.
“I mean it was not a hot spot for two months,” Matthews said. “It was like the safest place to be. Obviously things kind of flipped pretty quickly there.”
After properly quarantining, the Maple Leafs forward will be ready to hit the ice on August 2 for a qualifying round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Toronto. With the league continuing to adjust for Phase 3 testing, Matthews’ test will remain the only known positive result.
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