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Marner all for return, but: 'What if someone gets sick and dies?'

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

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Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner believes safety is paramount if the NHL hopes to successfully organize a return plan for the 2019-20 season.

"My thought on this is: OK, I'm all down for starting everything back up, let's rock," Marner said on a Twitch stream Wednesday. "But what if someone gets sick and dies? What happens?

"It's awful to think about, but still."

Eight players - five with the Ottawa Senators and three with the Colorado Avalanche - have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus since the NHL went on pause March 12 due to the pandemic. Players and staff are still under self-quarantine, but the league hopes to initiate the second phase of protocols by late May.

Plenty of proposals for a return are on the table, but ESPN's Greg Wyshynski reported earlier this week that the NHL is leaning toward jumping straight into the playoffs rather than playing out what remains of the regular season.

When the league came to a halt, Marner's Maple Leafs occupied third place in the Atlantic Division. The 23-year-old was in the midst of another productive campaign, registering 67 points in 59 games.

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