Details remain to be finalized with health and safety protocols as well as monetary issues. But the NHL moved another step closer on Thursday to resuming a season placed on pause on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 24 NHL teams included in the league’s return-to-play format will start their formal training camps on July 10 if it is safe to do so, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association announced in a joint statement.
That is Phase 3 of the NHL’s reopening plan. Phase 2, the resumption of small-group workouts at team facilities on a voluntary basis without coaches, was allowed to begin on Monday.
There is no timeline yet for Phase 4, the resumption of games, though it’s believed training camps will last up to three weeks.
“Formal training camps [Phase 3] for the 24 teams resuming play will open on Friday, July 10 provided that medical and safety conditions allow and the parties have reached an overall agreement on resuming play,” the NHL and NHLPA said in their joint statement. “The length of training camp and, therefore, the start date for formal resumption of play [Phase 4] will be determined at a future date.”
Under the return-to-play format, 12 teams in each conference will be sequestered at separate hub cities for the resumption of games.
The seventh-seeded Islanders will face the 10th-seeded Florida Panthers in a best-of-five qualifying series for the 16-team playoffs and the No. 11 Rangers will meet the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes.
But the formal training camps will be conducted before teams report to their hub city. The Islanders are expected to have training camp at their team facility in East Meadow and the Rangers plan to be at their facility in Greenburgh.
Six of the league’s seven Canadian teams – the Ottawa Senators excluded – are among the 24 teams eligible to play for the Stanley Cup. Among the details to be resolved is whether players entering Canada for training camp will be subject to a 14-day quarantine period. There’s speculation some or all of the Canadian teams may seek to conduct their training camps in the U.S.
Overall, players traveling across international borders must know whether they will be subject to further quarantine in order to properly set their travel schedules.
The NHL has yet to select its two hub cities from among 10 candidates – Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver – and the Canadian cities could be eliminated based on quarantine guidelines.
Health and safety protocols, including coronavirus testing, for both training camps and the potential resumption of the season must still be finalized as well.
And, of course, there’s the money.
The owners and players split revenue 50-50 per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, with escrow coming out of the players’ paychecks to ensure the split. Revenues will be down for the foreseeable future without fans in the stands and 189 regular-season games lost to the pause. The sides are negotiating to account for the shortfall.