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Coyotes start training sessions; Players describe safety at arena

Brad Richardson #15 of the Arizona Coyotes skates on the ice during the second period of the NHL game against the New York Islanders at Gila River Arena on February 17, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Brad Richardson said it starts in the morning, before players even get to the arena. They take their own temperature at home.

Once Arizona Coyotes players arrive for practice in voluntary small group training sessions as part of Phase 2, which began for the Coyotes on Thursday, someone is there to greet them at Gila River Arena. Players get another temperature check, and don a mask and gloves as their visit to the arena continues.

Only in the weight room and on the ice are gloves and a mask not required.

“Everything’s been very organized,” Richardson said. “We have a certain time we have to be there and a certain time we’ve got to leave before the next group comes in. So very structured and you feel very safe. And that’s it. The training’s going well.

“I’m on the ice by myself with a coach because I’m rehabbing [from injury] — you’re allowed to do that. So I’ve been just working with the coaching and getting ready and skating three or four times a week and trying to get ready to play.”

A small group of players began skating at Gila River Arena last week. That number is growing as more players get back into town, having dispersed when the coronavirus pandemic halted the season in March. Players are having to get regular COVID-19 tests to return to the arena and be around one another.

“I wouldn’t say it’s too bad,” goaltender Adin Hill said of the swab test. “It’s more uncomfortable. It goes pretty far up your nose so when it’s up there, it’s just kind of a weird little tickle, a little sensation. It’s definitely not comfortable, you want it out right away. I guess your eyes just kind of water and your nose feels a little weird.

“The first time I got one, I felt like I was about to sneeze when it was up there and I don’t think that would have turned out too well. But it’s not too bad. It’s not that bad.”

This weekend, the Coyotes announced that a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Such is a possibility for any team and league trying return during a pandemic. Richardson said he came into close contact with the person who tested positive.

“I was around that person. But the precautions that we’re taking protect you,” Richardson said. “Even though we were fairly close together, I went and got tested and it was negative and I’ve tested since then, too. That’s why those precautions are there.

“People in their outside life have to go live their life and do their thing. Everyone’s trying to still social distance, but it’s sometimes impossible. It sucks for that person but it’s nice to see that no one else was infected and hopefully we can move forward.”

Richardson was told late at night that the person tested positive. He immediately got himself tested.

“They handled it really great,” he said. “The person doesn’t have any symptoms and then just had the positive test. So I went and got tested, literally as soon as they told me and got the results back fairly quick. Obviously tested negative, went about my life as usual.”

With no body checking, and lots of safety measures off the ice, practices are a little different for now. But players are getting in work and feeling comfortable with the precautions in place.

“Even when we’re in the gym and lifting the weights, right after you’re done using your weight, you take a cloth and a little sanitizing spray bottle, spray everything down, make sure it’s clean,” Hill said. “Everyone’s wearing masks. I think they’re taking all the right precautions. Every staff member is wearing a mask and gloves. It’s going well.”

The league intends to begin formal training camps on July 10 ahead of a 24-team postseason tournament format.


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