On Monday, the National Hockey League released documentation pertaining to “Phase 2” of its return to play procedure. As always, there’s no timetable for a return to action and nobody seems to know anything specific.
However, the Phase 2 documentation does reveal discussions and protocols about testing, travel, practice facilities, and protective equipment to worn when leaving and entering any club facilities. Phase 2, as detailed in the documentation, is theoretically set to commence sometime in June. If something changes in the public health dialogue, that will also change.
As mentioned, the NHLPA did vote to continue discussing the return to play options. While some news outlets chose this as an opportunity to overstate the case and suggest the NHLPA voted on an actual return to play, that isn’t the case. There are still a lot of moving parts and a lack of specifics keeps a return to actual hockey a considerable way off.
What we know with the procedural discussion is that the NHL does not want to get one scintilla of this wrong. As has been detailed in numerous conversations with players and personnel, having a player or member of a team’s staff turn up sick during a return to play scenario would be a nightmare on multiple levels.
The NHL has no interest in bearing the brunt of any public scrutiny and will likely be watching its peers in the NBA and other sports leagues before committing to anything significant. Just as the NHL followed the lead of the NBA in “pausing” its season, you can expect the same basic metric here.
But what we do know are some specifics. First of all, these proposed practices are voluntary and limited to a maximum of six players. Coaches are not allowed on the ice during this period.
Second, players and staff will be subject to nasal swabbing to test for COVID-19 two days before attending team practice sessions and twice per week after that. They will be told to self-administer a temperature check and examine for symptoms daily.
Also, players who have travelled and are returning to their club cities for these practices will have to self-isolate for 14 days before attending any such practice.
“This activity will be permitted only in those jurisdictions where the applicable health authorities have sufficiently relaxed local restrictions to permit such gatherings,” reads the documentation.
Finally, there is an extensive list of those not permitted to attend these practices and the team facilities during Phase 2. This includes members of the media, player agents, family members, and so on. Anyone deemed non-essential is prohibited from practice facilities.