Tampa Bay Lightning close facilities after three players test positive for COVID-19

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov is mobbed by teammates after scoring the winning goal in overtime of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, in Denver. The Lightning won 4-3. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The Tampa Bay Lightning closed their facilities Thursday after three players and additional staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The closure comes some two weeks after players were allowed to return to their respective facilities to take part in voluntary on-and off-ice workouts. Players were allowed to skate in groups of up to six at a time.

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said in a statement that the players have self-isolated and are asymptomatic “other than a few cases of low-grade fever.”

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BriseBois said the facility will remain shut down until the team can ensure a safe environment for reopening.

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“The Lightning are steadfast in doing all that we can to ensure the health and safety of our players, staff, fans and the community,” BriseBois said. “With a significant rise in cases in the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County and the State of Florida we are imploring everyone in the Bay Area, especially young people, to help slow the spread of this pandemic by diligently following the recommendations of government officials by wearing a mask, practising social distancing and continuing to wash their hands regularly.

“We need to work together as a community to slow the spread.”

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The Lightning’s release came on the same day that Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies announced that five players have tested positive for COVID-19 at the team’s spring camp in Florida, prompting the club to indefinitely close the complex.

The move to open facilities was the next step in the NHL’s bid to resume its season with a proposed 24-team expanded playoff format, with games being played in two hub cities.

The NHL projects teams to open training camps on July 10.

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