If you want hockey back this summer, you got good news on Friday night when the NHLPA approved the 24-team playoff format. There is still plenty to work out between the sides, and hockey won’t return overnight. We are likely still roughly two months away from real games actually being played.
That said, any progress is worth discussing right now. Friday night’s NHLPA verdict was a nice step in the right direction. On Monday, the next positive step was taken by the NHL.
The NHL announced the framework that will govern Players and Clubs in Phase 2. Phase 2, according to the NHL, is the transition period following “self-quarantine”.
The United States recently lifted its Coronavirus travel ban and will allow professional athletes to start returning to their respective team cities. It stands to reason that pro sports teams will now be granted the same exemptions when it comes to their practice facilities. In fact, numerous states are opening for professional sports teams to train and play games without fans.
“In Phase 2, the first step in resumption of League activities will be to allow clubs to reopen each of their training facilities in the club’s home city,” a general overview of the league memo read. “To permit gatherings of small groups of Players (i.e., maximum of six (6) Players at any one time, plus a limited number of Club staff), to engage in individualized training activities
on a voluntary basis, as set forth in detail below.
“This activity will be permitted only in those jurisdictions where the applicable health authorities have sufficiently relaxed local restrictions to permit such gatherings. Clubs whose local health authorities would allow for the reopening of Club facilities will be required to consult with and seek approval from the League prior to any reopening of Club facilities. In those jurisdictions which continue to restrict or prohibit such activity from occurring, and in order to address potential competitive concerns, the League will work with those Clubs to facilitate alternative arrangements, if desired.
“Further, Clubs are required to comply with the public health mandates and recommended best practices of the CDC and/or Public Health Agency of Canada (“Health Canada”) applicable to them and the facility in which Phase 2 activities are to take place, including any changes to such recommendations that may take place after the commencement of Phase 2. Clubs who are unable to allow access to Players in your facility as contemplated by Phase 2 or who are concerned that their operations do not satisfy public health recommendations shall notify Bill Daly or Julie Grand, so that we can work with your Club to determine whether alternative arrangements are appropriate or necessary.”
The hope, on both sides, is that Phase 2 can commence in early June. That would lead into the agreed upon three-week training camp prior to the best-of-five ‘play-in’ round.
No concrete dates have been set, but the NHL is hoping to have games played in July. An ideal target date would be July 1st, Canada Day. A more realistic approach could see games began on or around July 15th.