Bruce Cassidy Explains ‘Biggest Hurdle’ Bruins Will Face When NHL Returns

It still feels like there are more questions than answers when it comes to COVID-19. So, figuring out how exactly to proceed with a professional hockey season amid the coronavirus pandemic is challenging, to say the least.

For instance, what happens if a player tests positive once the NHL returns?

The Boston Bruins already have received a crash course in virus management, so to speak, as the team announced last week that an unidentified player tested positive for COVID-19. The case doesn’t appear too concerning — the player has been asymptomatic and two subsequent tests came back negative — but the situation offered a reminder of how much uncertainty still will hang over the season even after the puck drops for the first time in months.

“I think that’ll be a mental hurdle for us as coaches (and) leadership group to get the players over,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy recently told NBC Sports Boston. “So, for example, you’re playing along and you say ‘key player.’ The biggest player in every playoff series, the spotlight’s always on the goaltender. Let’s say anybody’s goaltender is playing well and tests positive. How is that going to affect the group?

“That’ll be the biggest hurdle, I think, for everybody involved, to get over and past that. And again, what will be the protocol? The player I assume gets removed, but for what length of time if he’s asymptomatic? How does it affect the rest of the guys? So, that’ll be our challenge, and it’s an unknown, to be honest with you, as a coach.”

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This obviously is a leaguewide dilemma. Every team in the NHL is facing the same questions. The Bruins aren’t immune to the unpredictability, just as they’re not immune to the virus itself.

It’s why Cassidy believes the “mentally toughest group” will hoist the Stanley Cup at the end of this unprecedented season. The NHL restart’s potential volatility can be scary, no doubt, but the Bruins, among others, can’t afford to let those fears become debilitating in their quest for hockey’s ultimate prize.

“You want to make sure everyone’s healthy and everyone’s healthy around you. The players are going to want that, and so do the coaches, for that matter. I don’t want to bring it into my house, either,” Cassidy said. “Those questions need to be answered and there will be challenges. And then the team that does get over it the quickest and just plays on will have the best chance to win.”

Welcome to 2020, where life — and hockey — is full of unknowns.

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