The NHL’s return-to-play protocol has been hammered out and the collective bargaining agreement tentatively agreed to. There’s one big question remaining: What if there’s a COVID-19 outbreak?Okay, there are a lot of questions, but that is the big one. It’s not directly answered in the 47 pages of protocol for training camps and game play the league released.In both documents, the league acknowledges that “postponement, delay, or cancellation” is possible. The wording is vague, however, and does not lay out specific circumstances that would call for any of the above.The Phase 4 version says that if the NHL or the players association believes that conditions create a “material risk to player health and safety and/or jeopardize the integrity of the competition,” including an outbreak, they should bring it to the attention of the other group. Commissioner Gary Bettman will then consult with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr about postponing, delaying, moving or canceling any games. The passage goes on to say the NHLPA can “contest the matter in the form of an expedited arbitration of a grievance.”It’s 243 words of legalese around who will talk to whom, without any line in the sand addressing under what circumstances they will have to take action.This is a document that specifies that teams’ dress codes will not be in effect (meaning players and other team personnel don’t have to wear suits to travel or for games), but does not determine what qualifies as an outbreak.The league issued its latest COVID-19 testing update on Monday: With 396 players participating in the voluntary workouts under Phase 2 (roughly half of the full number for game play), 23 have tested positive. That’s about 5 percent. (For reference, the state of Florida’s positivity rate was 19.3 on Monday.)The idea is that living in a bubble or “secure zone,” as the NHL is calling it, will lower the positivity rate. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas reported that the Blues outbreak (four players and a coach) may have traced back to several players meeting at a bar.What if the bubble doesn’t work and players are still infected?First, that’s why the NHL has expanded rosters to 31 players. Having a few players unavailable does not automatically make a team unable to play.If the Lightning are without Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy, they can still field a full lineup of 23 given a roster of 31. But does that impact the “integrity of the competition?”Since the NHL has not outlined what it will do in this circumstance, look to other leagues. MLS’ tournament starts on Wednesday. Already, one team has left the tournament, and another’s opening game has been postponed.Within a few days of FC Dallas’ arrival at the Orlando bubble, 10 players and a member of the technical staff had tested positive. Independent reporter Grant Wahl reported that other teams wanted FC Dallas removed for not doing what was necessary to be virus-free and ready to play. Nashville has had five players test positive and will not play on Wednesday as originally planned.That’s not the same as an outbreak within the hub, but is an example of what could happen if NHL teams do not take the precautions outlined in the protocol before reporting (mostly strict social distancing).As for what happens once they all get to Edmonton and Toronto, the NHL is putting a lot of faith in rules like wiping down takeout containers from outside the bubble (which also must be delivered to a specific location) to keep the coronavirus from penetrating and daily testing (which includes hotel staff living outside of the bubble) to keep it from spreading. Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow @dianacnearhos .