The Ottawa Senators are among the sports organizations that have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, but coach D.J. Smith knows it could have been worse for his club.
The Senators have announced five positive tests for COVID-19 among players over the past few weeks, including the first confirmed case in the NHL on March 17. The Colorado Avalanche later reported three confirmed cases of their own, bringing the league total to eight players. The NHL season has been suspended since March 12.
With all five Ottawa players reported to be recovered, Smith said the team was lucky the cases weren’t more serious.
“Everyone that had it didn’t have horrible symptoms,” he told reporters on a video call Wednesday. “Some guys didn’t feel well but, being athletes, they all got through it and they’re all on the other side of it now.”
The team is believed to have been exposed to the virus during a road trip across California in early March. Smith thinks the Senators’ experience may have opened people’s eyes to the scale of the ongoing crisis.
“I’m really glad that everyone that was involved in our organization and on that plane is now doing well,” he said. “It’s certainly a scary time, but yeah, it hit us, but at the same point it probably saved a lot of us, too, because unless you see it up close that quickly, we probably got a bit of a jump on this.”
Nearly a month has gone by since the NHL paused the season, but with the pandemic continuing to infect more people around the world, there has been no indication when the season could resume. Plans of summer hockey, a 24-team playoff and neutral-site games in North Dakota have all been discussed, but it looks increasingly possible the 2019-20 season might be a lost cause. Regardless of how things play out, the 25-34-12 Senators won’t be involved in the postseason.
Smith is still hoping his team can complete its schedule, however.
“I’m hopeful that we can get out of the house and get back to work and joking with the guys,” he said. “We want to finish on the right note. We want to finish with the message of how we’re going to work until the very end, to the very last buzzer. . . . The most important thing to me is the development of our young guys and that they continue to get better.”