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Florida Panthers veteran defenseman Anton Stralman questioned the safety of the NHL's plan to host a 24-team playoff, and isn't sure if the reward of pursuing a Stanley Cup outweighs the health and logistical concerns of playing hockey during a pandemic.
"Is it worth it?" Stralman said, per The Athletic's Joe Smith.
He continued: "I think you should be concerned. There are so many ways to look at this thing. I know everybody wants hockey back, but safety has to come first. And it’s a little bit worrisome, I can’t deny that. Even though most players are young and healthy, I’m sure there are players like me that have underlying health issues. I don’t know how my body will react if I get this virus."
Stralman is in his 13th NHL season, and first with the Panthers. He's dealt with bronchiectasis - a condition that prevents mucus from clearing in his lungs - since his time with the New York Rangers and just stopped taking medication for it this past year.
On top of concern for himself, Stralman spoke about the dangers of contracting COVID-19 in the league's proposed hub cities.
"It would be terrible if we fly into hub cities and start playing, and maybe one of the workers in the building gets it," Stralman said. "It’s not just the 50 guys on the team, there’s a lot of people that need to be there to make this work. If some of those people get sick and potentially die from that, who is responsible? And is this something I want to be part of? It's about the safety, not just for me but everyone involved. That raises a lot of questions on if we should do this thing. And if we do, would there be a price to pay for it?
"I'm not sure that's the right thing to do."
Stralman and the Panthers were three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third spot in the Atlantic Division when the league went on pause March 12. By virtue of the league's expanded postseason format, Florida earned the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference and are slated to take on the New York Islanders in a best-of-five series in the play-in round.