The NHL is closer than ever to resuming play after the league and the NHL Players’ Association ratified an agreement on protocols for the final two phases of their joint Return to Play (RTP) plan, Phases 3 and 4.
Players will begin training camps next week, followed by games in the qualifying and seeding rounds ahead of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. The league and players on July 10 ratified the RTP plan and a new collective bargaining agreement that will extend through the 2025-26 season.
Teams have been conducting limited workouts since June under Phase 2 of the RTP.
Here are the main things we know about Phases 3 and 4 of the NHL’s return.
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When will Phase 3 begin?
Phase 3 (training camps) is scheduled to begin July 13 in teams’ home cities.
How long will NHL Phase 3 last?
Phase 3 will last about 2 1/2 weeks, from the start of training camps to the start of Phase 4 (games) in bubble cities Toronto and Edmonton.
When will Phase 4 begin?
Phase 4 will begin Aug. 1 with five Stanley Cup qualifying round games. Teams will first report to the hub cities on July 26 and then complete Phase 3.
How many players will be allowed to participate in Phase 3 workouts?
Teams can have up to 30 skaters on the ice for training camp, according to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on RTP and the CBA. There is no limit on the amount of goaltenders. Only players who are eligible to compete in the season’s resumption can participate in Phase 3.
How frequently will NHL players be tested for COVID-19?
Players will need to take temperature and symptom tests daily, at home and at the training facility, according to TSN.ca’s Bob McKenzie.
How will the phases be affected if players test positive?
Individual positive tests likely won’t stop play, per the AP; only an outbreak would do that. The AP also reported that players will likely be isolated through the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Family members will be able to join them for the conference finals, which will be held in one of the hub cities.
What will happen to a player if he chooses not to play?
Players will not be penalized if they opt out of returning to the ice. Six players opted out by the July 13 deadline: Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic, Canucks forward Sven Baertschi, Oilers defenseman Mike Green, Stars defenseman Roman Polak, Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner and Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer.
Polak is a pending free agent who last month signed with a team in the Czech Republic for next season. Per ESPN, he told reporters then that he would not return to the NHL this year.
Canadiens forward Max Domi was given extra time to decide because of his Type 1 diabetes.
Blackhawks foward Andrew Shaw announced after the deadline that he would not return so he could continue his recovery from concussions.