NHL's chief medical officer: 'Difficult to predict' return timeline
A.J. Messier / National Hockey League / Getty

The NHL's chief medical officer says it isn't yet possible to put a timetable on the league's return.

"... If we look where we are with this pandemic, it’s really just entering the rapid acceleration phase, certainly in North America, and if we look at our league, really we place our league in the context of the larger society, and we want to be doing our part to not only protect our players but also our staff and our fans as the disease unfolds,’’ Dr. Willem Meeuwisse said during a call with reporters Wednesday, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

“It’s difficult to predict where the pandemic is going and what the timeline will be, but we do expect this is going to get worse before it gets better," the expert added.

Meeuwisse also explained what it will take for the NHL to consider returning to action after pausing its season March 12 due to the spread of the coronavirus.

“The specific circumstances are obviously going to depend on the pattern of the disease and specific risks at that time," he said. "That’s one of the difficulties, this thing is changing daily. And guidance from health authorities is changing daily based on the changing circumstances. I mean if we think of bringing people back together, we’d want to have some confidence that the players and the staff themselves are healthy, some confidence the players are not infectious at that time, and that bringing them back together even in small groups would not increase the risk of contracting or transmitting the coronavirus.

“And then we’d have to place that in the context of the larger society and the fact that we have people in 31 different market cities. And they’re likely to differ one city to the next.’’

The NHL extended its self-quarantine directive to players through April 4, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said on the same call Wednesday. The league initially instructed them to do so through March 27. The NHL has also asked its clubs for August arena dates, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

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NHL's chief medical officer: 'Difficult to predict' return timeline
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