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NHL players begin opting out of return – Tampa Bay Times

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Stars defenseman Roman Polak and Canucks forward Sven Baertschi on Saturday joined the list of players who won’t be reporting to training camp for the resumption of the NHL season.

Baertschi told the Canucks he’d be opting out of participating in the expanded 24-team playoffs, following Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic informing the team he won’t be playing because of family reasons.

Polak is not on the Stars’ roster for the start of training camp Monday, and a team spokesman said he won’t be attending at this time.

Polak is a pending free agent who last month agreed to a deal to play in his native Czech Republic next season and told reporters in that country he wasn’t planning on returning to the NHL if play resumed. Baertschi, who spent much of this season in the minors, is under contract through 2020-21.

“Sven informed us late (Friday) that he has chosen to opt out of the NHL return to play program,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. “It was a difficult decision but ultimately one we respect and understand.”

Hamonic became the first player to publicly choose not to play in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Hamonic’s daughter was hospitalized last year with respiratory issues, and he and his wife also have a baby boy. Their health concerns, not Hamonic’s impending free agency, led him to opt out, he said.

“I wish I could lace up my skates and be out there battling, blocking a shot and helping my team win, but my family has and always will come first,” Hamonic said. “Being my little kids’ dad every day is the most important job I have. I love this game and my team. This is a decision that is extremely hard for me to make.”

Related: Lightning’s Steven Stamkos has a new injury entering training camp

Flames general manager Brad Treliving said, “While we will miss Travis in our lineup, we understand and respect his decision.”

The Wild, who face the Canucks in the qualifying round, ruled out defenseman Greg Pateryn indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Saturday the league will be taking over injury and illness disclosures from teams as a way of protecting player privacy.

— By STEPHEN WHYNO

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