Call them all systems will restart the summer of the league after Friday’s ratification of the protocols governing the return to play plan and an extension of the collective agreement until September 2026.
This paves the way for the opening of training camps on Monday in 24 cities – more than four months after the end of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It promises to be an ambitious endeavor.
The teams will travel from their home markets on July 26 to Toronto or Edmonton, the central cities where all games will take place. The entire playoff tournament is scheduled to end in a maximum of 62 days – effective August 1 with the qualifying round of the top five and production of a champion by the first week of October.
Ultimately, the 2019-2020 NHL season could span a full calendar year.
Players had to accept extensive protocols governing the camps and the bubble environment around which the games are played, requiring them to be separated from their families for six weeks this summer. They also had to accept the terms of a revamped collective agreement, which will allow them to carry over 10 percent of next year’s salary while the upper limit of the ceiling is kept at $ 81.5 million as long as it NHL businesses will need to return to Regular.
It was the best that both sides could do in difficult circumstances, and should see players return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026 while making modest gains at the minimum wage in the league, the amount they can be paid on entry-level contracts and how much escrow can be deducted from future paychecks.
By ensuring work peace for at least six more seasons, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association have also created a stable environment to try to wait for the coronavirus storm.
The first steps will be in a tournament made for television which will be played without fans in the buildings. The 12 returning Western Conference teams will arrive in Edmonton for matches at the Rogers Arena, while the 12 teams remaining to the East will head to Toronto for matches at the Scotiabank Arena.
Up to three games per day in each city will be played to start. According to Sportsnet Stats, this is the first time the NHL has played its playoffs entirely on Canadian soil since 1925.
The only question that still hangs over the NHL is fundamental: can we do it safely? Great efforts will be made to try to prevent an epidemic from affecting the participants, which could lead to the cancellation of the whole.
Thirty-five NHL players produced positive COVID tests between June 8 and July 6, according to information announced by the league. And it was only with around 53 percent of players returning to get tested regularly.
This number will increase once everyone is tested every other day once the camps are open.
Players also have the option of refusing to restart without penalty, provided they notify their teams in writing before 5 p.m. ET on Monday. They are not required to give a reason for doing so.
So yes, obstacles remain, but many important obstacles have already been overcome.
There have been times since the season ended on March 12 when it seemed natural to look at the growing logistical problems and wonder if this could only be the third year in Stanley Cup history where it had not been distributed.
Either way, NHL owners and players have overcome these challenges. Here they stand with an industry stabilization agreement, a set of return-to-play protocols that epidemiologists say can keep COVID-19 at bay and facilities in two Canadian cities where the spread of the virus has been maintained at levels that can be safely handled by local health systems.
Oh, and every intention to drop the puck over a season starts again in three Saturdays from now.