The NHL and NHL Players' Association on Monday announced they had reached a tentative agreement on a detailed Return to Play plan that would relaunch the season on Aug. 1, and at the same time said they have a Memorandum Of Understanding to extend their existing collective bargaining agreement by four years, through the 2025-26 season.
In identical statements, the league and the union said formal training camps will start on July 13, the third phase of the four-phase plan. That will be followed by travel to the two playoff hub cities on July 26. The qualifying round, part of the expanded, 24-team playoff format, will start on Aug. 1, launching Phase 4. The two hub cities were not specified but the sites reportedly will be Edmonton and Toronto. The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be held in one city.
The agreement is subject to approval from the NHL's board of governors and from the NHLPA's executive board and full membership.
The NHL halted its season on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After considering completing the final 15% of the regular-season schedule that remained when play was paused, the league and the union agreed instead to scrap the regular season and resume with postseason play.
Reflecting caution in these unusual circumstances, the league and the union issued a 20-page protocol for Phase 3 and a 28-page protocol for Phase 4. Players will be contained within "bubbles" in the two hub cities. Frequent testing will be carried out on players, coaches, staff members, and on arena and hotel workers to minimize the risks of contracting or spreading the virus. Games will be played without fans in the stands.
Each team's traveling party will be capped at 52, including a maximum of 31 players. Players will be permitted to opt out of competition. The union and the league each can notify the other during Phase 3 if one has reason to believe that player health and safety might be jeopardized.
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