The basics have long been established: The NHL planned to return to play by quarantining 12 teams from each conference in two hub cities. The details, however, took longer to surface.
Finally, the league and the players association came to an agreement on some of those details Sunday night. The Eastern Conference will play in Toronto and the Western Conference will play in Edmonton, as has been speculated for the last week.
Here’s what we know so far:
· No one is ready to pass GO quite yet. As of Sunday night, the league and NHLPA were still negotiating details on the new collective bargaining agreement. They need a memorandum of understanding on the CBA and for both sides to ratify the full agreement. That means a conference call for the board of governors and a full membership vote for the NHLPA.
· Mark your calendar for August 1, but maybe do it in pencil. The NHL is targeting that date to start its qualifying round. The current plan is to start training camp on July 13 and report to hub cities or “Phase 4 Secure Zone” — the league’s preferred term, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reports — on July 25 or 26. Those are the same dates that have been discussed for the past few days, as negotiations continued, making the July 10 training camp start impossible. The dates still depend on the owners and players ratifying this agreement and a new CBA.
· There is an avenue for games to be postponed, delayed or canceled and for the whole tournament to be called off if conditions present “risk to player health and safety” or jeopardize “the integrity of the event,” according to Seravalli. That could apply to a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, but the protocol did not specify a specific number of cases it would take to make that call.
· Everyone within the secure zone will be tested, and tested often. Players and team personnel will be tested every other day, according to McKenzie. Seravalli reports that the list of people to test goes well-beyond team and league employees, including hotel staff such as food service employees and housekeeping.
· Any person who tests positive will be isolated and a second test performed to confirm the positive. If the second comes back negative, the person will still be isolated for a further 24 hours until a second negative result is returned.
A person with a confirmed positive case deemed asymptomatic can return to the team after two consecutive negative tests. Someone with a symptomatic case can emerge from isolation after 72 hours without symptoms, given a minimum of 10 days in isolation.
Players may be authorized to leave the secure zone, but they will have to quarantine at least until they have four negative tests over four days, possibly longer, according to Seravalli.
· Players can opt out of participating without penalty. They will have to notify their teams within three days of the CBA’s ratification, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
· Rosters will be expanded to 31 players, with as many of them being goalies as a team wants, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. That means teams could have a goalie stay in quarantine within the secure zone in case one of the two goalies in the lineup gets hurt or contracts the virus — call it the Bruce Arians method, since the Bucs coach pondered doing so with a third quarterback.
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· Those 31 players will count toward the teams’ cap of 52 people in the secure zone. That group must include at least one physician, a security representative, a compliance officer, and a content creator, in addition to the usual group of hockey operations staff, according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
· Everyone will continue to wear face coverings when they are not exercising, but coaches will not be required to do so on the bench during games, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.