The NHL is still more than a week away from determining a return-to-play format, someone familiar with the talks told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
And what the plan looks like could be further complicated if the United States and Canada extend border restrictions to non-essential travel in July, the person said, on condition of anonymity, because the talks are private.
The person spoke after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the border restrictions will remain in effect until June 21. This is the second time that the restrictions have been extended since their introduction on March 18 due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
“I hope that today’s announcement will not have a significant impact on our return to discussions and the schedule,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email.
Although the NHL has left open the possibility of opening training camps as early as the beginning of August, it is unclear what effect new border restrictions will have on a league with seven of its 31 Canadian-based teams .
There is also the question of how the travel restrictions will affect players, many of whom have returned to their homes in the off-season – about 17% of whom currently self-isolate overseas.
In a separate development, the NJHLA Executive Council voted to postpone the final payment of salaries for regular season players until the end of May. Players owed their last check on April 15 before voting to postpone these payments for a month.
The ruling provides temporary relief to the NHL baseline, opening the possibility for players to forgo all or part of the rest of their final checks. Players risk losing all or part of what is owed to them under the collective agreement.
Players and owners share hockey-related revenues on a 50 to 50 basis, with a percentage of player wages placed in an escrow fund. Homeowners can dip into the fund if their share falls below 50%, which should happen this season.
The owners viewed the players’ previous decision to postpone the payment as a sign of good faith. Daly declined to comment on the latest report, saying it’s a decision entirely left to the players.
The NHL ended its season on March 12, with commissioner Gary Bettman confident the league intends to take the Stanley Cup, even if it means extending the playoffs until September.
The decision on when and how to resume the season rests with a committee made up of representatives from the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association.
Topics of discussion include whether it is possible to conclude all or part of the regular season or to go directly to the playoffs. The season has been postponed with 189 games remaining and the teams having played an uneven number of games.
Options discussed include an expanded playoff format of up to 24 teams, and the likelihood of groups of teams coming together and playing games in a number of main cities across the continent and absent of fans.
There is no set deadline for the game to resume before the NHL plans to cancel the season. The games could be played in October with the potential opening of the 2020-21 season in December or January.
New Jersey Devils defenseman Connor Carrick said the two sides are trying to make the most of a difficult situation.
“It will be an interesting solution, and I think you accept the novelty with it,” said Carrick.
One concern is how a nine-month layoff could affect players on non-qualifying teams.
Devils veteran goalie Cory Schneider said on Monday that a growing number of players were concerned that the NHL would announce a deadline for returning to play.
“I think it’s everyone’s concern right now,” said Schneider, the union’s union representative. “Are there a lot of guys asking if there is a deadline? When is it just too late for you to have a semblance of a season or playoffs. “
Sports writer AP Tom Canavan contributed.