Ovechkin, Pastrnak among season award winners

Since the NHL is planning to go straight to the playoffs, it’s handing out a handful of trophies for the regular season cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Not long after unveiling a 24-team right-to-the playoffs format, the league on Thursday announced the winners of its regular-season awards. Play was halted March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.

Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Boston’s David Pastrnak share the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the top goal scorers after tying with 48. Although Ovechkin was stopped short of a ninth 50-goal season, his ninth goal-scoring title extends his NHL record.

Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl won his first Art Ross Trophy for leading the league with 110 points, which he accomplished in 71 games. Oilers general manager Ken Holland praised Draisaitl for producing at that clip playing with and apart from captain Connor McDavid.

“It’s a credit to his commitment, his passion, the hard work he’s put in, the determination over the last three, four, five seasons,” Holland said. “He’s the player that has the most points in the league and he’s a 24-year-old player. He continues to take steps forward in his career. A tremendous accomplishment.”

Along with Pastrnak’s individual award, the Boston Bruins get the Presidents’ Trophy for leading the league standings with 100 points, and goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak earn the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals.

The Bruins, who got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year before losing to the St. Louis Blues, won’t get any of the usual benefits of the Presidents’ Trophy winner if the NHL resumes this summer in two host cities without fans.

They’re not even guaranteed the top seed in the Eastern Conference under this playoff format, which will make them play a three-game round-robin tournament against Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia to determine the order of the top four.

“It’s never a perfect scenario,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “It’s not going to be as set in stone as you would have after an 82-game regular season.”

Through 70 games, the Bruins had leads of eight points over the Lightning, 10 over the Capitals and 11 over the Flyers. Team president Cam Neely expressed his feelings about the format during calls with the NHL in recent weeks, but acknowledged this is “uncharted times for everybody.”

“A little disappointed with what the team was able to accomplish the first 70 games and kind of the point spread we had between not only the teams in the league but the teams in our division or conference,” Neely said Wednesday. “To kind of have three games dictate where we fall in the conference standings is a little disappointing.”

On his team winning the Presidents’ Trophy, Neely said in a statement Thursday, “Although the regular season did not end the way anyone hoped, we are honored to win this award for the second time in seven years.”

Even though they’re playing each other for seeding, the top four teams in each conference get a bye into the round of 16 while the other teams play best-of-five series to qualify.

“By getting a bye, they’re going to be facing a team that just came out of a competitive series, and the concern was they needed to have some competition that might not put them at risk in terms of the playoffs but would give them an opportunity to play some real games,” commissioner Gary Bettman said. “They needed some games that mattered to some extent in order to not be coming in against a team that just played a competitive series. The benefit and the curse of a bye, I suppose.”

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Are NHL players on board with return-to-play plans?

    Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

The National Hockey League has revealed its ambitious plans to complete the 2019-20 season, with the return of players to team training facilities ahead of a 24-team, conference-based postseason at two “hub” cities in North America during the summer.

It’s a plan that involves 25,000 to 30,000 COVID-19 tests and other protocols to keep the players safe. It involves an unorthodox playoff tournament that some players weren’t happy about. And it involves further negotiations between the league and its players, who approved this “return to play” format but have yet to vote on whether to actually come back to the ice, in a global pandemic, to complete the season.

NHL Players Association executive director Don Fehr spoke with ESPN on Tuesday to clarify the players’ positions on some issues, and to explain whether they’re on board with the NHL’s plans to return to play.

ESPN: According to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Tuesday: “Our medical advisers [believe] that a single positive test, depending on the circumstance, should not necessarily shut the whole operation down. Obviously we can’t be in a situation where we have an outbreak that will affect our ability playing. But a single positive test throughout a two-month tournament should not necessarily mean an end for the tournament.” Does the NHLPA concur with that outlook on positive tests?

Fehr: Our view, and my view, is really pretty simple. [If] we have positive tests, we consult with the appropriate medical people and the local public health authorities where appropriate, and they will tell us what we need to do.

ESPN: Will players incur any costs for testing?

Fehr: I expect that that’s part of management’s responsibility under the economic arrangements we have.

ESPN: What is the approach for players who know they have underlying immune conditions? Or that have family members who are immunocompromised? The NHL has told us there’s leeway as to whether these players can ask out of participating in a playoff tournament during a pandemic. What is the NHLPA’s stance on that?

Fehr: There are still things that have to be negotiated. We haven’t done the Phase 3 or Phase 4 protocols. There are some things about the [return-to-play] format that aren’t quite finished. There’s a lot to do, but that issue will certainly be one that will be raised. And I’m fairly confident that we’ll find a way to resolve it. Nobody wants to expose someone to unreasonable risks given the circumstances. So we’ll have to find a way to come to grips with it. In that regard, we’re just like every other business.

ESPN: Players have voiced a concern about being apart from their families for an extended period of time. Have you received any assurances from the NHL that families will be able to accompany players in the “bubble” when competition resumes?

Fehr: We still have to negotiate those specific things. But when we looked at it overall, [in] Phase 2 they’ll be able to be with families, during training camp they should be able to be. Until we know where we’re going to be and what the facilities are going to be like and what the recommendations from the appropriate health care and medical people are, we won’t be able to come to grips with that precisely. But hopefully nobody is going to be without their families for an extended period of time, like months. I find that very unlikely.

ESPN: Now that the memo is out on a return to training facilities, there’s a lot required of the players. Temperature checks. Testing. Restrictions on capacity. Where are the players on these policies, and were these policies collectively bargained or conceived primarily by the NHL?

Fehr: It was something negotiated with my office, although with some meaningful player involvement. But understand: We’re only dealing with Phase 2, which is voluntary. Final agreements will have to go back and be approved by the players, in terms of what we do. As a general belief on my part, I don’t know that I’ve had this specific conversation with players, but I have a pretty good idea of what their attitude is. I think they would be more concerned if we didn’t do everything we could to make sure people were protected, rather than worrying about if it’s testing too many.

ESPN: Do you expect their experiences in Phase 2 to inform how they feel about living in a “hub” city this summer?

Fehr: It’s certainly possible. I’m not in a position to make a judgment to make it likely or not, but it’s possible that will take place.

ESPN: We were under the belief that training camps would be about three weeks, but Gary Bettman said that the decision will come after input from players. Where do you stand with that, and is there an amount of time players have said they believe to be appropriate?

Fehr: It just depends on who you talk to. We hope that three weeks is going to more or less be the appropriate number. But if we don’t get enough skating in and in Phase 2, for example, with enough players and it has to be a little longer, it will be extended. If it turns out we can get almost everybody back and people are skating and they feel pretty good about it, they can be a little shorter. It’s a work in progress. The notion that we can predict it right now in these circumstances just doesn’t strike me as very likely.

ESPN: The NHL memo had an interesting caveat about players testing positive for COVID-19: “The player shall be deemed to have sustained an illness arising out of the course of his employment as a hockey player for such period as he may be removed from training, practice or play, and his condition shall be treated as a hockey-related injury for all purposes under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, unless it is established, based on the facts at issue, that the Player contracted COVID- 19 or the resulting or related illness outside the course of his employment as a hockey player.”

This reads very much like the differentiation between a hockey-related and non-hockey related injury in a player contract, which states that “the Club may suspend the player or even terminate the contract under some circumstances” for a non-hockey related injury. So is it possible, under these bylaws, that a player can be suspended or have his contract terminated for getting COVID-19 away from the rink?

Fehr: I find that to be an extraordinarily unlikely possibility. Everybody involved in the game … certainly the players, but everybody else, too; and all of you [in the media], to the extent you’ll be involved and cover games: You also live in the world. You’re not insulated from it. We all have to be in a position where people take that into account. My visceral reaction would be that it’s extraordinarily unlikely. It has to do with where some of the medical coverage is, and whether it would be a hockey-related condition.

ESPN: The NHL has taken a stance that no new player contracts can be signed for 2019-20, which would limit players coming over from the KHL for example to join their team in the playoffs if they hold his rights. I’m curious what the union’s stance is on this, and if this is something you’re going to fight for?

Fehr: We have a whole raft of things that have to be negotiated before we can go forward, including something called the critical dates calendar, which encompasses all of the signing possibilities in the draft and and everything else, plus all the transition rules that we’re going to have to have, much less try and resolve the major economic issues. And we’ve got to come to grips with all of those. And I’m not in a position now to comment on a specific in the manner that you just raised, but if you ask it more generally, are those all things that are on the table? The answer is yes.

ESPN: It seems like everybody has a different definition on whether these are playoff games. Does the PA consider these to be playoff teams? Was there any pushback from the players on stats in the qualification round not counting towards regular-season totals, since commissioner Gary Bettman said stats are now frozen as of the games played through March 11?

Fehr: First of all, let me stop you: We haven’t decided where the statistics from the playoff round are going to go yet. It hasn’t been done.

I don’t know what you mean by a “playoff team.” Look, there are certain things we know. If we cut the season at a certain date and limit the teams to 16 [playoff spots], you get a particular result. But even that raised questions, because some teams played more games than other teams, and the schedules were different at that point. Maybe you were ahead, but you had five or six rough games coming up. Or you were behind and you had a bunch of easy ones you thought you could win. So you started with that.

Secondly, since the season wasn’t completed, the one thing we know for sure is that teams who had the possibility of qualifying, couldn’t. They didn’t have that chance. What you did was come up with, under all of these circumstances, something that is a reasonable approach to try and go forward. And that’s about the most you could say for it. I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just that when you try to say “playoff teams” or not, I think the answer really is, “Did you get to play in this tournament that was set up in 2020, under these terribly unfortunate circumstances?”

ESPN: Have you received input from players for how long there needs to be between the completion of the 2019-20 season and the start of 2020-21?

Fehr: What you’ve got essentially is the break has to be long enough to provide an appropriate interim. And if the agreement is we’re going to be negotiating player contracts afterwards, it has to sweep in that period of time, too. But we don’t want it to go so long we’re starting in March. So that has to be negotiated yet. Players have a lot of different views on it. But until we see if we’re going to be able to play this year — hopefully we will, if the medical circumstances will permit it — and when that’s going to end, it’s going to be very difficult to to make a judgment about that.

ESPN: Don, is it possible to stuff the genie back in the bottle now when it comes to the season? Announcing a format for return to play, the excitement that builds … obviously, the messaging from the NHLPA since last week is that this is not a vote to return to the ice this summer, but a vote on what it would look like if the players did return to play. But it would seem difficult, at this point, to not go forward with this, considering all the messaging coming from the other side.

Fehr: I’ll give you two thoughts on that. First, the players aren’t going to play unless it’s medically OK to do that. And I can’t believe the owners would try to push them into doing that, if it’s not medically OK to do so. Secondly, if it’s medically inappropriate, and we can’t protect the players and the staff and [the media] and the broadcasters and everyone else, whether or not somebody is unhappy about that doesn’t really matter much, does it?

ESPN: What type of health and safety protocols can we expect when the NHL returns, and how different might it look from what we’re used to?

Fehr: What type of safety measures? We’ve not gotten to that. All we’ve done so far is the Phase 2 [protocols], that’s the next step. And we’re going to have to do that, because once you move into training camp, obviously you have more crowded conditions. But that’s something that we’ve got to look at next. We’ve only done the Phase 2 protocols so far.

ESPN: How much of these decisions still to be made, including ultimately whether to return to play, are tied to a new collective bargaining agreement?

Fehr: I don’t know how to answer that. I can only say that we have had negotiations ongoing, for a bit over a year, to try and see if we could come to an agreement on an extension. We now have a completely different set of economic circumstances to fold into that mix. They’re circumstances where we don’t actually know what the situation’s going to be. I mean, nobody knows what the revenue number is going to be next year or the year after, because the error range is too great.

So the only way I could answer this is if we could come to an agreement, that would provide for an extension of the CBA and cover all these things, great. But we won’t know that for a while.

ESPN: Is there a way to come to an agreement on a CBA extension that could lift the debt load for players, considering how much they’re going to potentially give back to owners due to the revenue losses?

Fehr: I’ve been in this business representing professional athletes and team sports in North America for 43 years [as of] August. There’s no way in the world I’m going to give you an answer to that question.

ESPN: We’ve been saying for weeks that the NHL and NHLPA’s relationship has been collaborative. Is that still true and how would you describe your relationship right now?

Fehr: Where did that word come from? Is that something Gary is spitting out?

ESPN: Would you describe your relationship as collaborative?

Fehr: I’m not putting adjectives on it. I’ve learned that everybody interprets the adjective in different ways. So it’s not helpful to do that. But I would say if this was a normal collective bargaining, we know what the economics are. We can make reasonable predictions about what they’re going to be. Management says, “I would like to do A, B, C.” Players say, “We don’t like that. We want to do X, Y, Z.” You get into a situation, and you bargain it out. Sometimes with the threat or the actuality of economic coercion, a strike or a lockout; sometimes, and hopefully not. And you come to some resolution everybody can live with.

This is different. This was not caused by any desire of the players or the NHL or anything like that. The circumstances we have to live with are not within our control. I can’t say, “Yes, Gary, I agree.” Or Gary can’t say, “Yes, Don, we’ll do it your way and we go back to work tomorrow.” It doesn’t work that way. And a lot of the things we have to contend with, we can’t.

But we’re faced with a situation in which we both have twin, joint desires. The first one is to make sure everybody’s health and safety is protected. The second one is to try and make sure that the business, when it reopens, reopens in the best possible way of going forward into the future. And that obviously has economic implications and implications for relationships with fans and all the rest of it. So if the word collaborative is meant to imply that we sort of have to deal with these things which are thrust upon us and we’re trying to do, then I would go along with that.

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NHL 2019-20 regular season: Bruins win Presidents’ Trophy, Pastrnak and Ovechkin share Rocket Richard

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced Tuesday that the 2019-20 regular season has concluded. If and when Phase 4 of the NHL’s four-tiered plan is reached, the league will transition to a 24-team return to play format.

For the first time since the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13, an 82-game regular season wasn’t completed.

In Tuesday’s announcement, the teams that have earned a berth into 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs if the season resumes are the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars.

Stanley Cup playoffs 2020: Everything you need to know

Of the eight teams that earned a bye into the first round of the playoffs, the Flyers were the only team not in the playoffs last season. Philadelphia last made the postseason in 2017-18.

The seven teams who won’t be competing for a Stanley Cup are the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. If played, the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs would be the first since the 1995-96 season to not feature a California team.

With the regular season officially concluded, here’s where the awards stand.

Who won the 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy?

After falling short in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins stormed out to points in 13 of their first 14 games and never looked back. Boston reached the 100-point plateau for the third consecutive season in their final regular-season game on March 10 when they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Presidents’ Trophy is awarded to the Bruins for the third time in franchise history having previously won it in 1989-90 and 2013-14.

Who are the division champions?

Atlantic Division

Boston clinched the Atlantic Division title for the first time in six seasons edging out the Tampa Bay Lightning, who came on late in the second half after a rough first couple of months. The Bruins had the top goaltending tandem in the league this season as the team sported the league’s best defense, allowing just 2.39 goals per game. It also doesn’t hurt to have the league’s top goalscorer in Pastrnak spearheading an offense that ranked ninth in the NHL.

Metropolitan Division

In the Metropolitan Division, the Washington Capitals are the champions for a fifth consecutive season, besting the Flyers by one point. Washington had the league’s second-highest scoring offense thanks to Ovechkin and defenseman John Carlson, who led all NHL blueliners with 75 points. The Capitals also feature a steady goalie duo of Braden Holtby and Ilya Samsonov, who has flown on to the season in his rookie campaign. In 26 games, the Russian ranks 11th in the NHL with a 2.55 GAA.

Central Division

No Stanley Cup hangover for the Blues as they won the Central Division for the first time since the 2014-15 season, squeaking by the Avalanche. Despite losing forward Vladimir Tarasenko to injury in late-Oct., the Blues still averaged 3.14 goals per game with the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly leading the team with 61 points. Goalies Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen combined to allow the sixth-fewest goals in the NHL with Allen ranking second among qualified netminders with a 2.15 GAA.

Pacific Division

For the second time in its three-year existence, the Vegas Golden Knights won the Pacific Division. After Peter DeBoer replaced Gerard Gallant as head coach on Jan. 15, the team went 15-5-2 sporting the fourth-best record in the league during that span. The ageless wonder Marc-Andre Fleury played in 48 games this season with forward Max Pacioretty leading the team with 66 points, one behind his career-high. 

Who is the Art Ross Trophy winner?

For the third time in four years, an Oiler has won the Art Ross Trophy, but for the first time, it wasn’t Connor McDavid. Leon Draisaitl wins the award in 2019-20 after posting 110 points, including a league-high 67 assists, becoming the first German to ever win the award. Draisaitl joins McDavid and Wayne Gretzky as the only Oilers to earn the honor.

It was a breakout season for the 24-year-old setting a career-high in apples. As a leader on the best power-play unit in the league, the German forward led the NHL with 44 power play points.

With McDavid finishing in second behind Draisaitl, the two become the first set of teammates to finish in the top-two in scoring since the 2012-13 season when it was the Lightning’s Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.

Who is the Rocket Richard Trophy winner?

Pastrnak and Ovechkin scored 48 goals this season to tie for the most in the league. For the first time in a decade, we’ll have co-winners of the award. The Lightning’s Steven Stamkos and Penguins’ Sidney Crosby shared the trophy in the 2009-10 season with 51 goals each.

The Great Eight wins the award for a ninth time and for the seventh time in eight years. Pastrnak wins the award for the first time in his career and becomes the first Bruin to win the honor.

Since the award was created in 1998-99 season, Ovechkin’s nine Rocket Richard trophies is the most in NHL history, seven more than the next closest batch of players.

Who is the William M. Jennings Trophy winner?

Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak (Bruins)

Rask and Halak share the award as the goaltenders on the team who allowed the fewest goals this season. Boston led the league in goals allowed (167) with Rask leading the NHL with a 2.12 goals-against average and placing second with a .929 save percentage.

Halak was just as strong in goal posting a 2.39 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage with his play earning him a one-year contract extension.

It’s the third time the Bruins have won the William M. Jennings Trophy with the other instances coming in the 1989-90 season (Reggie Lemelin and Andy Moog) and 2008-09 (Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez). 

Who was the highest-scoring rookie?

Quinn Hughes, Canucks

For the second straight year, a Vancouver Canuck has tallied the most points by a rookie in a season. Elias Pettersson had that honor last season with 66 points in 71 games. This season, the Vancouver blueliner finished tops among rookies with 53 points in 68 games this season edging out Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar who finished with 50 in 57. Rounding out the top-five is Chicago Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik (46), Sabres forward Victor Olofsson (42) and New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (42).

Hughes is the first defenseman to lead all rookies in points since the 1988-89 season when Rangers blueliner Brian Leetch had 71 points in 68 games. 

He’ll look to follow Pettersson’s footsteps and win the Calder Memorial Trophy. If Hughes were to win, it would be the first time the award was given to a recipient on the same team in consecutive years since the Bruins’ Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson won it back-to-back in 1966-67 and 1967-68.

NHL ‘hub cities’: Evaluating Canadian markets’ viability of hosting games

Who are the scoring leaders on teams not competing for a Stanley Cup?

Sabres forward Jack Eichel is the highest-scoring player whose season is over. The Buffalo captain ranked 10th in the NHL with 78 points as the team’s league-leading playoff drought has extended to nine seasons.

Other notable players who will have to wait until next season before hitting the ice is the Kings’ Anze Kopitar (62 points), Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin (53 points), Sabres’ Sam Reinhart (50 points) and Sharks’ Timo Meier (49 points).

For the seventh time in its 28-year history, the Sharks have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs and just for the third time since the turn of the century (2002-03 and 2014-15). Big names, such as forwards Evander Kane and Logan Couture and defensemen Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, will be at home for the foreseeable future.

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Stanley Cup playoffs 2020: Everything we know about the NHL’s potential resumption

The rumour mill continues to churn, but one thing appears to be more and more definite: a 2020 Stanley Cup champion will be crowned.

When it’ll happen is still in flux because of such things as location, coronavirus testing, the U.S.-Canada border closures, limited access from Europe and mandatory 14-day quarantines to anyone entering Canada.

Regardless of those variables, it sounds as if the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association, through their joint Return to Play Committee, are inching closer to summer hockey. The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont wrote (subscription required) that the Bruins may be able to get back on the ice, albeit in small groups, by June 1 under Phase 2 of the league’s reopening protocols, with the playoffs starting July 1.

Here’s everything we know so far about the NHL’s potential return to the ice:

How many teams would return?

According to a report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on May 20, it looks as if the league, the players and the Return to Play Committee are zeroing in on a 24-team playoff.

The top 24 teams based on points percentage — teams had not all played the same number of games when the season was paused on March 12 — would be seeded 1-12 in each conference. Seven teams would not resume play and would then enter the draft lottery.

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

Teams that would not return

How would the playoffs work?

Brackets! Who doesn’t love a bracket?

In the proposed format, there would an NCAA-style bracket without any reseeding.

According to Friedman, the top four seeds in each conference would receive byes and the “play-in series” would be a best-of-five format.

Eastern Conference opening-round series

Western Conference opening-round series

Once these series are decided and the Stanley Cup playoffs are down to the traditional 16 teams, the four teams that received byes would then enter the bracket for a best-of-seven series.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Thursday that the four top teams could play in a mini-round-robin tournament of their own to determine final seeding.

If the seeding remains the same for those four teams, then this is how the Round of 16 would shake out — and, yes, that could mean a Maple Leafs-Bruins “first-round matchup.”

Eastern Conference second-round series

Western Conference second-round series

Where will the games be held?

“Hub cities” is the magic word in sports right now and the NHL appears to be following that path. With the majority of NHL cities either a COVID-19 hotspot or under a ban on public gatherings through the summer, it is becoming more apparent this is the route the league needs to take.

According to reports, the NHL has received bids from multiple teams including Columbus, Las Vegas, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver. In the “hub city” players would be quarantined to minimize the possibility of infection. 

TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted Thursday that the Oilers’ hometown is rolling out the red carpet for the NHL — offering up everything from golf courses to a colder, more hockey-centric climate.

Will fans be able to attend?

Probably not. The league has looked into it but the complications are massive. 

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AHL cancels remainder of season, Calder Cup playoffs

The AHL announced Monday that it was canceling the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season and the Calder Cup playoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rumors had been swirling for weeks that the season was set to be called off, and AHL President David Andrews confirmed the news in a statement on the league’s website. The announcement comes after a conference call of the league’s Board of Governors on Friday.

“After a lengthy review process, the American Hockey League has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions,” Andrews said. “The League’s operational focus has turned toward actively preparing for the 2020-21 season. We are very grateful to the National Hockey League and its teams for their support and leadership in navigating through the challenges faced over the past two months.”

The league standings as of March 12, when the season was put on hold, will now be final. The Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s AHL affiliate, will finish in first place with 90 points in 63 games. It is the first time in the AHL’s 84-year history that no Calder Cup champion will be crowned. 

Andrews said the league will now turn its focus to the 2020-21 campaign.

“The AHL continues to place paramount importance on the health and safety of our players, officials, staff and fans and all of their families, and we all look forward to returning to our arenas in 2020-21.”

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Former NHL tough guy Georges Laraque has COVID-19, pneumonia in both his lungs

Former NHL tough guy Georges Laraque has another fight on his hands.

Laraque, releasing a series of videos this weekend on his Facebook page from a Montreal-area hospital, says he has contracted COVID-19.

"I have pneumonia in both my lungs," he said Saturday. "They’re affected by the COVID because I have asthma. I need to have oxygen blowing through my nose."

Laraque, 43, who played 12 NHL seasons and had 131 fights, said he had been running 10 kilometers a day to prepare for a marathon before he came down with symptoms.

"Now I can’t even get up without losing my breath," he said. "It’s insane."

Laraque, speaking in both French and English, had a couple coughing fits while talking.

He said the fevers at night had been bad.

"I wake up in sweat all the time," he said.

Sunday, he released another video, saying he was fever-free the night before for the first time.

Laraque said he originally went to the hospital on April 26 for a test because he was having symptoms. He was given a chest X-ray and was sent home with a cortisone prescription, he said.

He was called back the next day to say the X-ray showed pneumonia and the day after, he was able to get a test.

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"If in Quebec, we’re limited with the amount of testing that we have, why are we reopening schools to kids?" he said. "Because obviously, there’s not going to be enough tests to test all the kids in school. So if you can’t test all the kids in school, it’s not to be a safe environment for the parents … and to the teachers, who are already way underpaid.”

He added: “I know we have to start back the economy again, I know it’s going to be important, but for two months of school, are the parents really going to risk their life to get sick when their kids come back home every day? Some parents are going to end up in a room like me in the hospital.”

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Ex-NHLer Laraque on virus fight: ‘It’s insane’

A couple of weeks ago, former Montreal Canadiens tough guy Georges Laraque was running five or six days a week as he trained for a marathon. Now, the former NHL enforcer’s biggest challenge is trying to breathe clearly as he fights coronavirus from a hospital in Montreal.

“Now I can’t even get up without losing my breath. It’s insane,” he said.

In a series of videos from his hospital bed, the 43-year-old said he began feeling symptoms a week ago Sunday when he was helping to deliver groceries to vulnerable people in his community.

Over the next days, his condition deteriorated.

“I have pneumonia in both my lungs, they’re affected by the COVID because I have asthma, I have to have oxygen blowing through my nose,” said Laraque, who wore a hospital gown and could be seen coughing at times during the videos.

“The nights are the worst,” he said. “At night, I have fevers a couple times a night. I have to get up and take pills.”

Laraque thanked the staff at Charles-Le Moyne Hospital who have been taking care of him, and told people not to feel sorry for him because, “I’m not the only one fighting this.”

Laraque played parts of 12 seasons in the NHL from 1997 to 2010, including eight with Edmonton. He capped his career with two seasons in Montreal.

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NWHL Draft results 2020: Boston Pride select Sammy Davis No. 1 overall

The National Women’s Hockey League is holding its draft Tuesday and Wednesday just days after announcing the addition of an expansion team in Toronto.  

Earlier Tuesday, the Toronto NWHL franchise completed a trade with the Boston Pride, sending the first overall pick and a 2020 fifth-round selection to Boston for the Pride’s first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a 2021 second-round pick. 

With that first overall pick, the Pride selected Boston University forward Sammy Davis. She finished her Terriers career with 142 points in 147 games and was a three-time team captain. 

Davis became the third Boston University athlete to be selected No. 1 overall in a North American professional sports league, joining Kayla Tutino, who went first overall in the 2016 CWHL Draft, and Rick DiPietro, who was selected No. 1 overall in the 2000 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders.

The league is having athletes, executives and broadcasters announce each pick on Twitter. The list includes WNBA players Natalie Achonwa, Rachel Banham and Jasmine Thomas and broadcasters Kenny Albert and John Buccigross.

The results from the 2020 NWHL Draft. Rounds 1 and 2 are taking place Tuesday; Rounds 3-5 are set for Wednesday: 

NWHL Draft results 2020

Round 1 picks

Round 2 picks

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NHL now selling team-specific face coverings to stop spread of COVID-19

The NHL has stepped up its charitable arm as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pause the league’s 2019-20 season.

On Tuesday, the league announced that NHL-licensed cloth face coverings are now available on NHLShop.com for all 31 teams. The NHL’s proceeds will support the Feeding America (U.S.) and Food Banks Canada COVID-19 Response Fund.

“The health, well-being and safety of our fans and all communities across Canada, the United States and around the world, is our number one priority,” said Kim Davis, NHL EVP of social Impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs in a news release. “We’re committed to assisting in the effort to support the face covering guidelines from the CDC and Health Canada with the important benefit and outcome of helping food banks across the U.S. and Canada in their efforts to feed people in need during this unprecedented time.”

MORE: Tracking how the pandemic has impacted 2019-20 season

With most states and cities requiring face coverings when venturing outside to contain the spread of the virus, fans can now purchase a three-pack to support their favorite team while also giving back to their community. Intended strictly for personal use, the FOCO-manufactured masks cost $24.99 and come with a cotton liner.

“As a longtime licensee of the NHL, FOCO is proud to participate in the NHL’s campaign to support the COVID-19 relief efforts of Feeding America and Food Bank Canada,” said Michael Lewis, CEO, FOCO. “In addition to manufacturing the face coverings, FOCO will also be making contributions to support the two organizations’ efforts.”

Feeding America and Food Banks Canada are hunger-relief organizations that provide meals and foods across the continent.

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Gretzky, Ovechkin raise $40K in NHL 20 deadlock

NHL greats Wayne Gretzky and Alex Ovechkin might not be the greatest when it comes to virtual hockey, but their deadlock Wednesday night left plenty of winners as they helped raise over $40,000 for relief efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic.

With more than 300,000 people watching their EA Sports NHL 20 showdown via a livestream on the Washington Capitals’ Twitch channel, Gretzky won the first game 5-4 in overtime, before Ovechkin rebounded with a 4-1 victory. While it was initially going to be a best-of-three series, they elected to end things after the two games.

“We both are not very good at this game, but what a great cause, right, when everybody’s so down and out,” Gretzky said, according to NHL.com. “So, a fun night, and hopefully everybody’s having a little bit of enjoyment laughing at us.”

With Gretzky’s family and Ovechkin combining to match donations from fans watching the livestream, more than $40,000 will be split between the Edmonton Food Bank and MSE Foundation’s Feeding the Frontlines fund.

With neither Gretzky or Ovechkin having much previous experience playing NHL 20, both had assistance. Gretzky’s son Ty assisted in the first game, with his son Trevor helping in the second. Ovechkin teamed with John “JohnWayne” Casagranda of the Capitals’ esports brand, Caps Gaming.

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