HFX Wanderers coach Stephen Hart happy to see players back training

The Canadian Premier League soccer league logo is shown in a handout image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Premier League MANDATORY CREDIT

Stephen Hart was back on the training field Monday with a smile on his face.

"I can't tell you how happy I felt today," said the HFX Wanderers FC coach after his CPL side resumed training. "Even though it took a lot of planning and it was a long morning, I don't mind."

On the other side of the country, Pacific FC was also back in action as the Canadian Premier League took its first steps back towards resuming play. Others in the eight-team league are expected to join them this week.

The CPL was scheduled to start its second season on April 11 but postponed the kickoff on March 20, due to the global pandemic.

There has been no word yet on a blueprint for a revamped 2020 schedule although the Prince Edward Island government says it has been approached about hosting league play this summer.

Under the CPL's training protocol, teams will begin with non-contact, individual or small group sessions which will adhere to safety protocols and physical distancing measures for players and staff.

"It has its complexities but whatever it takes to really get back out there in a safe manner, I'm all for that," said Hart, who got in about 10 days training with his team prior to the pandemic. "It was very good."

Hart, a former national team head coach with Canada and his native Trinidad and Tobago, did not have all of his players available with only a dozen on the training pitch for individual sessions.

"Nobody looked overweight," said Hart. "They're all been doing their homework ... In general they looked in decent shape."

Some players are in 14-day self-quarantine after returning to Nova Scotia. Striker Alex Marshall and defender Eriks Santos remain in Jamaica and Brazil, respectively, due to travel bans.

Goalkeeping coach Jan-Michael Williams, a former Trinidad and Tobago international who played for Hart last season, also has yet to make it back.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.

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