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Tuukka Rask Explains Bubble Reality For Players With Any Symptoms Of An Illness

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- The NHL announced on Monday that the latest round of COVID-19 tests came back with zero positive tests in the two bubble locations. We're now getting a peek at the level of vigilance that's helping to maintain that coronavirus-free environment.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask played in the team's exhibition game on Thursday, but he was absent from practice on Saturday and then missed the team's first round robin game on Sunday. Without any details released, the public word on Rask was that he was simply "unfit to play" -- a phrase that's been used as a blanket term to cover just about any absence in the era of COVID-19.

Yet on Monday, Rask was back on the ice for practice, and afterwards he shared with the media why he missed a couple of days of work.

"Yeah I had a cough so I just clicked yes on the app and then all kind of red lights started blinking so I was quarantined for two days," Rask said. "They wanted to do two negative tests after that. That's it. Now I was back today."

Rask said his two tests did indeed come back negative, which allowed him to return to practice.

Rask said he still has a cough, but the negative tests give both himself and the league comfort that he is not infected and therefore not contagious.

"Well at least I tested negative. So I'm still coughing but I'm not too worried about that," Rask said. "As long as the tests came back negative, that's all I care about."

While the implications of Rask's mandated quarantine for honestly answering a health survey were relatively minor, the situation does shed some light on how such procedures can (and almost certainly will) impact players going forward in the postseason.

If a symptom as minor as a cough can trigger a two-day lockdown, players may face moral and ethical quandaries when answering the questions of that survey each day. Hiding symptoms certainly would not be the right thing to do, as potentially spreading the highly contagious virus could threaten the entire league. At the same time, if a player was confident that he had no way of catching COVID-19, he may feel as though he'd be letting his team down by missing a critical playoff game in order to sit out the necessary amount of time.

That's not a particularly novel concept for the NHL, where players have to deal with injuries on a regular basis. (See Zdeno Chara playing with a wired-shut jaw last June.) It is unique, though, in that player injuries don't typically involved contagious diseases.

Missing a win-or-go-home Game 7 simply for having a cough or a slight fever is something that's never really confronted players before.

Hopefully for the sake of everyone involved, players still fill out those health surveys as honestly as possible each day, in order to ensure the health and safety of everybody who's inside the NHL's "bubbles" in Toronto and Edmonton. But it would be naive to look at Rask's comments and not envision a player potentially clicking "No," now that he knows what will happen by clicking "Yes."

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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