Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press on Sunday that the NHL and NHL Players’ Association have agreed on protocols to resume the season.
Daly said the sides are still negotiating an extension of the collective bargaining agreement. A CBA extension is crucial to the process, and the league’s board of governors and players’ executive committee and full membership must still approve that and the return to play protocols to bring hockey back this summer.
If everything is ratified, it will end a pandemic-forced shutdown for 31 teams across North America that began in mid-March. Games would resume in late July or early August with 24 teams taking part in an expanded playoffs, finishing with the Stanley Cup being awarded in October.
The agreement was first reported by TSN.
Assuming approval from owners and players, teams are expected to open training camps July 13 before traveling to two “hub” cities for games—Toronto will host Eastern Conference teams, while Edmonton will host Western Conference teams.. Players have been able to skate and train off-ice in voluntary, small-group workouts since June 8 — nearly three months after hockey was shut down March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.
Returning for the playoffs is seen as a stirring victory for the NHL, which like other top leagues faced the prospect of losing millions more without the television revenue tied to the postseason. There were deep concerns about canceling the rest of the season and word of positive tests didn’t help: 26 players since June 8, in addition to almost a dozen before that.
Once play resumes, one player’s positive coronavirus test result is not expected to shut down play entirely. The league has said it would isolate any player or staff member who tests positive, acknowledging an outbreak would threaten the remainder of the season.
The league will be in charge of testing players daily once they get to their game city.
“The players will be pretty well-protected from being exposed,” Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said during a conference call in June. “It’s going to be a completely different way for you all and us watching hockey and being around a team because players will be really well protected throughout the process.”