The NHL and the NHL Players' Association agreed on Sunday with protocols to resume the season, a big step towards the return of hockey this summer.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Associated Press that there was an agreement on protocols for training camps and games and the sides are still negotiating an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which is crucial to the process.
A person with knowledge of the situation said that the game return protocols would only come into effect if each side voted to approve the full CBA game extension and game return package. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the CBA negotiations are still ongoing.
To complete a comeback, two-thirds of the board of governors and majorities of the players' executive committee and full league members must vote in favor.
If everything is ratified, a forced shutdown will end for a pandemic that began in mid-March. Games will resume in late July or early August, with 24 teams participating in the expanded playoffs, ending with the Stanley Cup being awarded in October.
The agreement was first reported by TSN.
With the approval of owners and players, teams are due to open training camps on July 13 before traveling to two "central" cities for games. Players have been able to skate and practice off the ice in voluntary exercises for small groups since June 8 – almost three months after hockey was stopped on March 12, with 189 games remaining in the regular season.
Returning to the playoffs is seen as an exciting victory for the NHL, which, like other top leagues, faced the prospect of losing more millions without the post-season television revenue. There were deep concerns about the cancellation of the rest of the season and the word of positive tests has not helped: 26 players since June 8, plus almost a dozen before that.
Boston defender Matt Grzelcyk called the results "eye-opening" positive, but expected. Some players have expressed concern in recent weeks about the uncertainty surrounding a return.
"Obviously, we have a unique situation at the moment," said Montreal goalkeeper Carey Price. "The NHL and NHLPA are trying to get the best out of a very difficult situation. Moving forward, I would like to play, but we have many questions that need to be answered and many scenarios that need to be addressed before I could vote yes or no."
After reproduction is resumed, a player's positive coronavirus test is not expected to stop reproduction completely. The league said it would isolate any player or team member who tested positive, recognizing that an outbreak would threaten the rest of the season.
The league will be in charge of testing players daily as soon as they arrive in their home town.
"Players will be well protected from being exposed," said Geoff Molson, owner of Montreal Canadiens, during a conference call in June. "It will be a completely different way for all of us and for us to watch hockey and be around a team, because the players will be very well protected throughout the process."