The NHL and the NHL Players Association have agreed to terms on a return-to-play plan. The two sides have been working closely throughout the entire process, and their agreement was reached much quicker and smoother than what took place in Major League Baseball.
Not only did the two sides come to an agreement on how to finish off the 2019-20 season, but they also agreed to add a four-year extension to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA will now last through the 2026 season, guaranteeing labor peace between the two sides.
The next step will be an official vote by all members of the NHLPA, but the players are expected to approve the plan and the new CBA extension. The NHLPA Executive Committee has already granted their approval, and it is expected that the league will be able to put the plan in place before the end of the month.
The return-to-play plan includes rules and guidelines for Phases 3 and 4 of the plan, and the league is expected to move to Phase 3 soon. The NHL created a return-to-play plan in May, and they have taken a very slow and detailed approach to resume the season.
Phase 3 involves the beginning of training camps, and these are set to take place in individual cities throughout the country. Players have been allowed to train at team facilities since June, but coaches and trainers have not been able to work with them.
Phase 3 also outlines how players will travel to hub cities, which is expected to begin on July 26. Teams can continue their training camps in these hub cities, and exhibition games can also be held.
Eastern Conference teams will be heading to Edmonton to restart the season, and Western Conference teams will be located in Toronto. The Stanley Cup Finals will take place in Edmonton.
The league will not move to Phase 4 until they are officially ready to resume the 2019-20 season. The NHL is planning to start the qualifying round on August 1, but the league could adjust that date if there are any setbacks before that time.
Twenty-four teams will be competing in the expanded playoff format this season, with the bottom eight teams from each conference competing in a best-of-three play-in round. The top four teams from each conference will play in a round-robin tournament to determine the playoff seeding.
All of the details from the plan have not been announced, but some details have been leaked to the media. According to the plan, players will have the opportunity to “opt-out” of the restart without any punishment, and they will not lose any salary.
The league has also outlined the process for players that test positive for COVID-19, but that plan has not yet been shared.
At Least 35 Positive Player Tests
The NHL announced that they had tested 396 players since June 8, which was the date that players could start training on their own. Twenty-three players have tested positive for COVID-19 since that date, and they have been forced to self-quarantine until their conditions improved.
The league also announced that they are aware of 12 other players that have tested positive for the coronavirus, but those players had not yet reported for workouts. The league has not announced the names of players who have contracted the disease.
There have been over 2,900 COVID-19 tests administered by the league since June 8, including more than 1,400 tests this past week. The league plans to test each player every day once the league moves into Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan.