The NHL is closer than ever to resuming the game after the league and the NHL Players Association ratified an agreement on protocols for the final two phases of the joint Return to Game (RTP) plan, Phases 3 and 4.
Players will start training fields next week, followed by games in the qualifying and sowing rounds before the Stanley Cup 2020 playoffs. On July 10, the league and players ratified the RTP plan and a new collective agreement that will extend until the season 2025-26.
The teams have been performing limited exercises since June, in Phase 2 of RTP.
Here are the main things we know about phases 3 and 4 of the NHL comeback.
When will Phase 3 begin?
Phase 3 (training camps) is scheduled to begin on July 13 in the teams' host cities.
How long will NHL Phase 3 last?
Phase 3 will take about two and a half weeks, from the start of the training camps to the start of phase 4 (games) in the bubble cities Toronto and Edmonton.
When will Phase 4 begin?
Phase 4 will begin on August 1 with five games from the Stanley Cup qualifying round. The teams will report to the central cities first on July 26 and then complete Phase 3.
How many players will be able to participate in Phase 3 training?
Teams can have up to 30 skaters on the ice for the training ground, according to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on RTP and CBA. There is no limit to the number of goalkeepers. Only players qualified to compete in the resumption of the season can participate in Phase 3.
How often will NHL players be tested for COVID-19?
Players will need to perform temperature and symptom tests daily, at home and on training facilities, according to Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca.
How will the stages be affected if players test positive?
Positive individual tests are unlikely to stop the game, according to the AP; only an outbreak would do that. The AP also reported that players are likely to be isolated during the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Family members will be able to join them in the conference finals, which will be held in one of the central cities.
What will happen to a player if he chooses not to play?
Players will not be penalized if they choose not to return to the ice, but must notify their teams of this intention in writing by July 13 at 5pm. ET, according to the league. Six players chose to leave on July 11: Flames defenseman Travis HamonicCanucks forward Sven BaertschiDefense of Oilers Mike GreenDefense Stars Roman Polak, Canadian defender Karl Alzner and defense of the Bruins Steven Kampfer.
Polak is a pending free agent who last month signed with a team in the Czech Republic for next season. By ESPN, he told reporters that he would not return to the NHL this year.