NHL officially back in league, players ratify return agreement in Edmonton, Toronto

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The NHL officially returns to the ice this summer.On Friday, the league and its players’ union officially signed an agreement that would see hockey return – with the central cities of Toronto and Edmonton.

The agreement includes the possibility of returning to the Olympic Games in 2022 and 2026 and a four-year extension of the collective agreement.

The NHL board and full members of the union gave the documents, which were tied into one all or nothing, thumbs up in separate votes.

“It was pretty civilian,” said Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat about the tentative deal negotiations on Monday. “We are happy to get things done. ”

The installation of hubs in Canada, where rates of coronavirus infection are largely under control, has proven to be the logical choice after a significant spike in cases in the United States in recent weeks.

“Although we have all worked very hard trying to cope with the risks of COVID-19, we know that health and safety are and will continue to be our top priorities,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in a press release. “We know all of our fans are thrilled to be back on the ice. ”

WATCH | Describing the NHL return plan:

Raffy Boudjikanian of CBC News describes the NHL return to play plan, including the decision to use Edmonton and Toronto as the two “major cities”. 2:31

The training camps for the 24 teams prepared to participate in the restarting of the league for a 2019-2020 campaign which was suspended on March 12 should start on Monday – also the deadline for players to choose to participate without penalty – in the national market of each franchise.

The plan will then see Eastern Conference clubs report to Toronto on July 26, while Western Conference clubs will travel to Edmonton before games resume on August 1. The conference finals and the Stanley Cup will be held in Edmonton as part of a first-kind Four NHL Final that could run until October 4 and lead to the next season in December or early January.

Once in Canada’s largest city and the capital of Alberta, players should be kept out of the mainstream in so-called “bubbles” that include strict health measures, daily tests and contain mainly teams in empty hotels and arenas.

The extension of the current agreement, which expired in September 2022 and now continues at least during the 2025-2026 season, allows players and owners to clarify a number of difficult financial realities caused by COVID-19.

WATCH | 9 things you should know about the NHL in 90 seconds:

The league has gone one step closer to returning with an agreement in principle on its return to play plan and the expansion of the ABC. Rob Pizzo breaks the chord. 2:01

It also gives the green light to negotiations with the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation on participation in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Games. The NHL skipped the 2018 Olympic Games after having participated in five Olympic Games. winter between 1998 and 2014.

The upper limit of the salary cap will remain at US $ 81.5 million in 2020-2021 and remain there until hockey-related revenues return to $ 4.8 billion – the total expected this season before the pandemic. The players have agreed to defer 10% of wages from next year, and the owners will reimburse them for three consecutive seasons starting from 2022-2023.

“This agreement is a significant step forward for the players and the owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time,” said NHLPA executive director Don Fehr. “We are thrilled to be able to bring NHL hockey back to the fans. ”

Escrow payments, a constant thorn in the side of players who guarantee a 50/50 split of HRR with owners, will be capped at 20% in 2020-2021 and will decrease throughout the transaction. If the teams still owe money after the 2025-2026 campaign, the agreement will be extended for another season.

The agreement marks the first time since Bettman’s hiring in 1993 that the NHL has established a bridge between two collective agreements without work stoppage. The 1994-95 and 2012-13 seasons were reduced to 48 games due to a lockout, while the 2004-05 campaign was completely wiped out.

WATCH | The involvement of the NHL explained:

Hockey fans hear the word escrow a lot, but do they know what it really is? Rob Pizzo explains it in simple English. 2:26

The Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, has been the most outspoken politician regarding the fact that his province hosts one of the hubs, indicating a low infection rate and Edmonton’s facilities.

“It’s the obvious choice to bring the NHL to Edmonton,” Kenney said on Twitter last month.

He also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hoping to get an NHL waiver from Canada’s 14-day mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving in the country. The federal government approved the quarantine cohort’s proposal last month, granting an exception that paved the way for Toronto and Edmonton to get the green light as hubs.

Speaking outside Rogers Place, Kenney said Friday’s news would create jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity.

“The Stanley Cup is coming back to Edmonton, Alberta,” Kenney said in a video posted on Twitter as he stood next to a statue of Wayne Gretzky. “We are going to get an incredible amount of free advertising in North America and around the world that will prepare us for the future revival of our tourism industry when travel returns after COVID.” ”

The Cup was last awarded in Edmonton when Gretzky hoisted it over his head for the fourth and last time on May 26, 1988.

The traveling group of each team will be limited to 52, including a maximum of 31 players.

Meanwhile, it has also been announced that the second phase of the NHL Draft Lottery has been scheduled for August 10. The eight losing teams in the qualifying round will have a shot equal to the first choice of the repechage, which is tentatively scheduled for October 9. ten.

Like Kenney, Premier of Ontario Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory supported their city’s hub potential.

“There is no better place to continue the NHL season,” said Tory. “We will make sure to present an excellent show for hockey … while respecting all appropriate health and safety protocols. ”

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch at Toronto General Hospital said the choice of the NHL to host all games in Canada reduces the risk, but it’s far from a foolproof endeavor.

“We would be blind to thinking that there is no COVID-19 in Canada, there is just a lot less here than in some areas of the United States,” he said. “Everyone should pay special attention to COVID-19 because even with the best prepared plans, there can still be small weaknesses that could be exploited by this virus. ”

Vancouver was the other Canadian city originally in the hub, with seven US markets, before the provincial government raised concerns about NHL health and safety protocols.

Prior to Friday’s announcement, Ford asked why the plan worked for his province when it didn’t work for British Columbia.

“They have very strict rules and regulations for their players,” said Ford of the NHL. “When they told me [players are] get tested every day, I’m not a healthcare professional, but I don’t think they need to be tested every day. Maybe every three days or whatever.

WATCH | Choosing pivotal cities in a pandemic is not an easy task:

As the NHL tries to reduce the list of hub cities from ten to two, Rob Pizzo examines the problems they face. 3h00

The 24-team format – which includes all Canadian franchises except Ottawa – will see the top four clubs in the East and West play mini-tournaments to determine the playoff rankings, while the remaining 16 s ‘will face off in an unprecedented match. considering the qualifying round.

Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia will compete for first place in the East, while defending Cup champion St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas will do the same in the West.

The top five Eastern qualifiers include Pittsburgh # 5 against Montreal # 12, Caroline # 6 against New York Rangers # 11, New York Islanders # 7 against Florida # 10 and # 8 Toronto v. Columbus # 9. In the West, the clashes are # 5 Edmonton vs # 12 Chicago, # 6 Nashville vs # 11 Arizona, # 7 Vancouver vs # 10 Minnesota and # 8 Calgary vs n ° 9 Winnipeg.

In all, there will be up to 52 games played in the first nine days before the teams take a break on August 10.

The four winners of the best matches of five from each conference will then be opposed to the first four seeds to complete the usual table of playoffs for 16 teams. The league says October 4 is the last possible date for the Stanley Cup final.

Players will not be quarantined during training camp, but will instead be asked to practice physical distance when not at the rink in the hope that isolation and testing will be sufficient to avoid any epidemic.

Of the 396 NHL players tested at the team’s facilities between June 8 and Monday during voluntary training, 23 results returned positive. The league said it is also aware of 12 other positive tests for players not participating in these optional sessions.

The Stanley Cup has been awarded every year since 1893, except in 1919 due to the Spanish flu epidemic and in 2005, when the lockout broke out all season.

There is now a firm plan in place to – hopefully – have it distributed this fall.

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