The NHL and the players association took another step toward the resumption of play Thursday, announcing training camp will potentially open July 10.
The announcement stipulated that camps would open then if medical and safety conditions allowed and the league and union had reached an agreement on play resuming.
Training camps are Phase 3 of the NHL’s plan to return to play after putting the season on hold March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Phase 2, voluntary skating in small groups, opened Monday. The Lightning had their first sessions Tuesday. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said players were excited to get back on the ice and have some semblance of a normal routine.
Phase 4 would be the resumption of games, with 24 of the 31 teams returning to set a playoff field of 16. No date has been set for that. Players have estimated that teams would want about three weeks of training camp before playing games.
Play would resume at two hub cities, which haven’t been chosen.
The 24 teams that would advance would be the top 12 in each conference based on points percentage when play was stopped.
The top four in each conference — the Lightning is among them in the East — would be guaranteed playoff spots and play round-robin games to determine seeding. The other eight teams would play best-of-five series to advance to the playoffs.
In a normal year, by July 10 the NHL would be in its slowest period. The opening free-agency frenzy would have passed, and most team’s development camps would be over. It would truly be the offseason with little news or interest.
Shattenkirk said Tuesday that’s about the time he would start skating again for offseason training.