Coronavirus: The NHL aims to move to phase 2 of the return to play protocol in early June


The NHL hopes the players will soon be back to the team’s facilities – with great care.

The league, which was forced to suspend its season on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, released a 22-page note Monday announcing that it was targeting the start of phase 2 early next month. of his return to play protocol, including the opening of training rinks and the possibility of small voluntary group training on and off the ice.

“It has not yet been determined when exactly phase 2 will start or how long it can last,” said the memo. “We continue to monitor the development of each of the club’s markets, and can adjust the overall schedule if necessary, after discussion with all parties concerned. “

The NHL, which has worked closely with the NHL Players’ Association on the phased approach, said that while it considers the protocol to be “very comprehensive … (it) cannot mitigate all risks”.

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“There is a range of clinical scenarios, from very mild to fatal,” the memo continues. “COVID-19 generally affects older age groups and those with existing medical conditions, more than younger and otherwise healthy individuals.

“We recognize that players and staff have family and household members who may fall into these vulnerable categories. “

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If the phase 2 plan gets the green light, the ice sessions will be non-contact and involve up to six players, who will have to maintain a physical distance at all times. Players will be required to wear masks when entering and leaving facilities and when they are unable to physically distance themselves.

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“Face covers (fabric or surgical type mask) must be worn at all times – except during exercise – when entering or leaving club facilities and inside club facilities where the social distancing cannot be maintained, ”says the memo. “Players are not required to wear face covers while exercising or on the ice.”

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Teams are also not allowed to force a player to return to the home city of a club to take the necessary quarantine measures before training begins. Coaches and management will be allowed to watch, but not participate in, the informal skates.

The last two phases of the return to play protocol – training camps followed by a resumption of action – were not mentioned in the memo. Phase 1, which continues after a number of additions, saw players advised to self-quarantine after the new coronavirus stopped most sports about ten weeks ago.

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The NHL / NHLPA Return to Play Committee has detailed the details of the game if it is allowed to return this summer. On Friday, the union’s executive council approved new negotiations on a 24-team format.

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The Phase 2 memo sent to the teams on Sunday and released to the public on Monday also states that players and staff will undergo COVID-19 nasal swab tests two days before training begins, and will be tested twice by week thereafter. They will also perform daily self-administered temperature and symptom checks at home before going to their team’s premises.

Clubs must also administer “separate temperature and symptom control at the entrance to the clubhouse.”

“As a primary principle, testing asymptomatic players and club staff should be done in the context of excessive testing capacity, so as not to deprive healthcare workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals of diagnostic tests required, ”says the memo.

Players who live in NHL markets other than where they play will be allowed to use local facilities, subject to availability, which means they will not have to return to their team’s home cities. for phase 2.

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Most NHL players have been off the ice since the league broke its schedule, although some, including a number of Swedish players who have returned home, have skated in recent weeks.

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The league has declared that any player or staff member who develops symptoms of COVID-19 during phase 2, including coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever / chills, muscle pain ( not related to exercise), loss of smell or taste, cold-like symptoms or gastrointestinal symptoms should immediately notify medical authorities and isolate themselves.

If a COVID-19 test returns positive, the player / staff team will perform contract tracing in conjunction with local health regulations.

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In addition to laying the groundwork for Phase 2 and continuing discussions on the 24-team format, many other obstacles remain for the NHL and the NHLPA before the resumption of games.

If the NHL returns this summer, it is almost certain that teams will be grouped in central cities in North America – Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Las Vegas are suspected of being in the mix – with matches taking place in arenas empty.

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The Stanley Cup has been awarded annually since 1893, with the exception of 1919 due to the Spanish flu epidemic and 2005, when a lockout resulted in the cancellation of the entire campaign.

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