Illness, injury lend suspense to today’s restart of NHL training camps

The Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp takes a break during a game against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 14 in Sunrise, Fla. (AP file photo)

Andrew Copp got a chance to skate in Michigan but isn’t sure how many of his Winnipeg teammates have been on the ice.

Voluntary player workouts have been going on for more than a month, but full NHL teams will be together today for the first time since March. Mixed with the excitement of hockey being back is the uncertainty of which and how many players might opt out and how the long layoff could contribute to injuries.

“(It’s about) trying to make sure that when you come back your hips and groins are all right,” Copp said. “For some guys, it’s going to be ease in and make sure you make it through the first four or five games healthy and making sure you don’t hurt yourself. At the same time, we are getting ready for the playoffs.”

It’s a training camp unlike any in history, with expanded rosters on 24 teams coming back from a four-month absence to compete for the Stanley Cup. It’s a two-week sprint from home cities to Toronto for Eastern teams and Edmonton, Alberta, for their Western counterparts.

Already, a handful of players have opted out of participating and more could make the same decision before a deadline of this afternoon. More than half the eligible players have already been skating at team facilities trying to get their legs under them, and ramping up for the resumption of the season takes another step with the start of organized workouts.

“It will be different for everybody,” Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford said. “It’s a camp in the middle of the summer after guys have had time off. It will be interesting to see how certain guys have prepared.”

Islanders coach Barry Trotz figures this will be a chance to gauge how mentally and physically prepared players are for this grind. There was no mandatory ice time or workout regimen before this point, though some players skated overseas when rinks were closed in North America for the COVID-19 pandemic and others have since made sure to lace up their skates.

“Now that it’s real, we’ll find out exactly where everybody is,” Trotz said. “The team that can really get their team structure-wise and attitude and execution and out that in place as quick as possible, you have a chance to win. The discipline and structure are paramount to having success.”

Some of that discipline is players and their loved ones staying home as much as possible before teams fly to the quarantined “hub cities” of Toronto and Edmonton.

Carolina forward Justin Williams said his teammates have been told to tighten up the circles of people they’re around for the next couple of weeks to keep the Hurricanes from having an outbreak


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)