David Pastrnak situation a reminder of just how uncomfortable all this is

Scott McLaughlin
July 17, 2020 - 1:38 pm
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David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase were “unfit to participate” in practice again Friday. They have now missed all four of the Bruins’ full-team practices this week, and have not been able to take the ice at all outside of limited skates on Wednesday while most of the team had the day off.

We know they were still in international quarantine protocol to start the week. We know the Bruins initially expected everything to be cleared up in a day or two. We don’t know exactly why they’re still out, because the NHL has strict limitations on what teams can say about these situations. We also don’t know how much longer they’re going to be out.

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A new wrinkle emerged Friday with rumors that Pastrnak and Kase have recently been out in places they maybe shouldn't have been, although coach Bruce Cassidy made it clear their absences aren't discipline-related.

It’s a good reminder of just how uncomfortable all of this is. The testing. The protocols. The waiting. The speculation. The lack of clear answers.

Everyone understands that health and safety come first. If a player isn’t cleared to practice or play or be around his teammates, then he isn’t cleared.

There isn’t really any grey area. It’s not like a normal injury where a player can tough it out and play through it, which is certainly how most hockey players are wired. This is black and white: either you’re cleared by the medical professionals or you’re not.

Pastrnak by all accounts looked great during his limited skate on Wednesday. Doesn’t matter. He hasn’t been cleared to practice with his teammates yet.

But while the cleared-or-not-cleared final decision is straightforward enough, there is and will continue to be plenty of uncertainty, especially for those of us not directly in the know.

What exactly needs to happen for a player to go from “unfit to participate” to “fit to participate”? We know, per the league’s guidelines, that if a player has tested positive for COVID-19, they cannot return until any symptoms have subsided and they test negative twice in a 24-hour period.

But we can only guess at how long it might take for that to happen. And then there are potential complications like having symptoms but not testing positive, or testing negative twice in 24 hours only to then test positive again a day or two later.

We can also only guess at whether a player has even tested positive, because names won’t be released unless it’s approved by both the league and the players’ union. It might be pretty easy to guess if you see a player who’s seemingly fine, who never appeared to suffer an injury, and suddenly they’re gone for several days, but we’re still unlikely to get definitive confirmation.

In this situation specifically, Cassidy is the public face meeting with the media via Zoom every day. The media have to ask him if there's any update, or if he can comment on a rumor that's circulating on social media, but we all know he can't say much.

The hope is that once teams get into the bubble on July 26, there won’t be as many of these situations. Hopefully being sealed off from the outside world means they’ll be sealed off from the virus. But no one can guarantee that will be the case. It seems more likely than not there will still be some positive tests.

And if this feels uncomfortable now, wait until it starts affecting games and series. Frustration won't even begin to describe the feeling fans will experience when one of their favorite team's top players is out and no one can say what's wrong with him or when or if he's going to return.

For now, the questions continue, and the answers remain nowhere in sight.

When will we see Pastrnak and Kase on the ice for a full-team practice? We don’t know.

Could this last long enough that they may end up missing games? We don’t know.

Is this still related to their international travel or did something else happen? Don’t know.

Did they test positive for COVID-19? Don’t know.

Sorry, but that’s the uncomfortable reality of all of this.

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UPDATE: We now have a little more clarity on Pastrnak's absence thanks to his agent, although we still don't know how much more time he'll miss.

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