Training camps will begin on July 10 for the 24 NHL teams that will participate in the revised playoff format as part of the league's Return to Play plan, the NHL and the NHL Players' Association said on Thursday. Opening formal training camps on that day is conditional, "provided that medical and safety conditions allow and the parties have reached an overall agreement on resuming play," both organizations said in statements.
Holding training camps would be Phase 3 of the current plan. The duration of camp has not been determined, leaving the start of Phase 4 -- resuming competition with the launch of the Stanley Cup playoffs -- to be determined. The league has said a three-week training camp might be necessary for players to get back into shape, but that's one of many points the league and the union have not yet settled.
The NHL halted play on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. It advised players and staffers to stay at home, and called that period Phase 1 of its planned return. Phase 2 began on Monday and includes allowing players to work out at team facilities in small groups if they pass COVID-19 tests and maintain social distancing.
The league and the NHLPA agreed to a conference-based playoff format that would place 12 teams in each of two "hub" cities. Los Angeles is among the 10 candidates to be one of the hubs. The top four teams in each of the two conferences would play round-robin, non-elimination games to determine their seeding and teams ranked 5 through 12 will play a best-of-five qualifying round. After that, each series will be best-of-seven games. Teams will be reseeded after each round. The Cup could be awarded in September, or later.
Another key detail to be determined is whether players would be kept in a "bubble" in order to minimize the potential for them to be exposed to the coronavirus.
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