Setting July 10 as the goal of opening mandatory training camps allows players to start making decisions about returning to their hometown, at least for those who don’t expect clarity on quarantine restrictions . It provides the teams with key information to start putting the wheels in motion on the planning for returning to the game, which goes from theoretical to very real.
And, for the industry as a whole, Thursday’s announcement has been the most encouraging sign to date that we will see the Stanley Cup playoffs taking place this summer – assuming health and safety conditions allow it.
Brian Burke gives his perspective on NHL Phase 2, potential hub cities and non-qualifying teams
June 11, 2020
An agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association on the start date for Phase 3 is essentially a statement of intent because it sets a deadline for those parties to resolve the remaining issues.
They basically left each other until the end of June to finalize a return-to-play agreement to vote on. At this point, owners and players have only ratified the 24-team format that will be used if the season resumes. They will always have a say
ends up happening.
Before any vote, the task list looks like this:
• Obtain clarification from the Canadian government on whether a 14-day quarantine will continue to apply to NHL players entering the country, which directly affects whether Toronto, Edmonton or Vancouver can be selected as a hub city and if Canadian teams could choose to move their training camps to the United States
• Finalize the two main cities where the matches will be played.
• Reach agreement on collective bargaining issues relating to return to play, which include critical dates, the 2020-2021 salary cap, a potential escrow cap and other contractual issues.
• Establish protocols that govern phases 3 and 4, which include tests, rules governing those that produce a positive result, living conditions in major cities, family visits and about a thousand other considerations, large and small.
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All of this should be put together in one big package for approval by the end of June. Once there, it will be the first in a series of moments of truth as it will officially mean if the league and its players move forward with training camps, exhibition games and progress towards the recovery of a season on hiatus since March 12. .
In comparison, Thursday’s announcement of the camps opening on July 10 was more of a symbolic step in that it finally set a timetable for all of these things.
“This is what we expected,” said Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly. “I think if you ask most of the players what was the hardest part [this pause] it was uncertainty. ”
A notable subtext of the return to play decisions is that negotiations for an extension of the ABC have also started. The parties are considering a potential four or five-year extension of an agreement due to expire in September 2022 and need not specify all the details before the puck drops.
Perhaps we will see them reach a memorandum of understanding on key issues.
After weeks where apparently no progress has been made towards a return, it’s been a few days. Players have started returning to team facilities for small group workouts on Monday and there will no doubt be more teammates in the coming days than those currently in Europe and in other countries. ‘other parts of North America return to the cities.
The quarantine issue is a major focus for Canadian-based teams, especially since they originally hoped to receive clarification from the federal government by the end of last week. Optimism is that restrictions could be relaxed so that an NHL facility is considered part of a quarantined player’s safety zone – which would open the door for players from the six returning teams to return and participate in phase 2 while remaining open the possibility of a game hub based here.
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Emergency plans are already in place if this does not happen.
Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving told Eric Francis of Sportsnet this week that he was ready to consider a US-based training camp. Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal have also studied the possibility.
At least they all now have a date to inform these decisions and more reason than ever to believe that planning will not be in vain. The NHL is heading for a recovery. It gets closer and closer with each obstacle crossed.
“I think we will play,” said Rielly. “I’ve always had that kind of thought, it’s just a matter of timing. … I tried to keep the attitude that we came back and played and tried to be positive.
“I hope it can continue here by July 10 and then from there. “