NHL, NHLPA reach tentative agreement to resume games Aug. 1
Extending the CBA — which would now run through the 2025-26 season — was considered a crucial part of the process for hockey to return this summer. Details of the extension were not immediately available.
The NHL and NHLPA agreed to the league’s return-to-play format in late May after the novel coronavirus pandemic abruptly halted the regular season in March. Under the expanded playoff format, 12 teams from each conference will be housed in hub cities, living in bubblelike environments and playing games with no fans in attendance. The top four teams in each conference will play round-robin games to determine seeding, while the remaining eight teams in each conference will play best-of-five series to establish a traditional 16-team playoffs with best-of-seven series from there.
The hub cities were not announced Monday, but Canada’s Sportsnet and the Associated Press have reported that Eastern Conference teams will begin play in Toronto and Western Conference teams will start in Edmonton. The four teams that advance past the conference semifinals will convene at one of the hub cities for the conference finals and Stanley Cup finals. If the agreed-upon schedule can be completed as planned, the Stanley Cup would be on track to be awarded in early October.
Any player can opt out of the return-to-play plan for any reason without facing a penalty, but players must notify their teams within three days of the plan’s ratification if they intend not to play. No player has publicly expressed an intention to out opt so far.
Since June 8, teams have been participating in Phase 2 of the return-to-play plan, which allowed players to return to team facilities for voluntary workouts. In Phase 3, participation in formal training camps will be limited to no more than 30 skaters per team with an unlimited number of goaltenders. Permitted activities will include on- and off-ice sessions with coaches participating. Players will not be able to work out or skate at any public facility or other location once training camps begin.
Each team will be permitted to bring a maximum of 52 people into its hub city for Phase 4, including a roster of no more than 31 players. All individuals who enter the hub cities will be expected to remain in the designated “secure zone” at all times. Individuals who leave the secure zone will face strict quarantines of up to 10 to 14 days upon returning as well as enhanced testing and monitoring. Individuals who leave the secure zone without permission will face penalties up to and including removal from the playoffs, and teams could face penalties including fines and/or the loss of draft picks.
Players’ families will not be permitted in the hub cities until the conference finals. They then may choose to reside with players only if they satisfy testing and quarantine requirements.
Once in the hub cities, players will undergo daily coronavirus tests, symptom checks and temperature screenings. If a player tests positive and is showing symptoms, he will be isolated and must test negative twice at least 24 hours apart to return to team facilities. The player can also return to team facilities after a minimum of 10 days in self-isolation following the onset of symptoms if he has had no fever or respiratory symptoms for more than 72 hours. Asymptomatic players who test positive will be required to self-isolate until medically cleared.
The NHL announced Monday that 35 players have tested positive since June 8. In total, 23 players tested positive after tests were administered to 396 players — about half the league — participating in Phase 2. The other 12 players who tested positive were not involved in the Phase 2 protocol. The identity of players who test positive will not be shared publicly unless approved by the NHL and NHLPA.
Most teams have been able to keep their practice facilities open without complications during Phase 2, but the Tampa Bay Lightning had to close its facilities June 19 after an outbreak before reopening five days later. The Athletic reported Friday that the St. Louis Blues had to cancel practices because of “multiple” positive tests.
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