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Rick Zamperin: Auston Matthews’ positive coronavirus test shows why NHL bubble is important

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe talks with Auston Matthews as William Nylander looks on as training  camp opens in Toronto, on Monday, July 13, 2020 ahead of the resumption of the NHL season.
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe talks with Auston Matthews as William Nylander looks on as training camp opens in Toronto, on Monday, July 13, 2020 ahead of the resumption of the NHL season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews confirmed Monday that he tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Arizona last month while the NHL season was on pause.

The 22-year-old centre shared the news with reporters on a Zoom call on day one of the National Hockey League‘s summer training camps, as the Leafs and 23 other teams entered Phase 3 of the league’s return-to-play plan.

Matthews said he was “asymptomatic” and felt “pretty normal for the two weeks” during his quarantine, and is “feeling healthy now.”

Matthews participated in the team’s workouts on Monday and declared himself fit to play in Toronto’s play-in series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Aug. 2.

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The league announced that it recorded 43 positive COVID-19 tests during Phase 2, including Matthews’, which proves how important the NHL’s two hub cities, Toronto and Edmonton, will be in the success of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It may be too much to expect, but if the league’s testing platform is able to identify any and all players who contract COVID-19 before they enter the hub cities, then the playoffs should proceed without any of the issues that have plagued NBA training camps at Disney World in Florida and Major League Soccer’s return to play in the same location.

Read more: Rick Zamperin: Coronavirus issues in MLS should serve as warning for NHL and NBA

A few NBA players, including Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook, have recently tested positive inside the league’s bubble while the MLS is Back Tournament lost two teams in its first week due to COVID-19 and has had to reshuffle its schedule.

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Keeping a lid on the number of coronavirus infections in Phase 3, which involves all 24 teams in the NHL’s summer season, will be critical when the league moves to Scotiabank Arena and Rogers Place on July 26.

However, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continuing to spike in the United States, getting to Stage 4 might be a big challenge for some teams.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

Calgary Flames training camp begins as NHL prepares to resume 2019-20 season
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