NHL: League and Players Agree to CBA Extension, Return to Play Protocol

Monday was a big day if you’re into the National Hockey League restarting its season and getting players back on the ice.

A memorandum of understanding was reached Monday that covers an extension to the collective bargaining agreement that will run through 2026. Included in the agreement is a new “critical dates calendar” and some transition rules.

The memorandum of understanding requires ratification before it becomes really official, of course, which means the players and owners will have to sign off.

It’s taken months to get to this point and there have been a lot of discussions and rumours surrounding the eventual CBA and how coronavirus played a part. Now we have a set of protocols governing a return to play and a resumption of training camps, which in turn should lead to a 24-team Stanley Cup tourney firing up sometime around August 1.

Yes, August 1. Prepare yourselves.

There are some more tentative dates – emphasis on tentative, of course. These include the resumption of training camps on July 13 and when teams will travel to the hub cities, which should be July 26.

In order for this plan to be ratified, the players need a simple majority and two-thirds of the owners have to sign off. There’s no real indication to foresee any obstacles, especially with the NBA primed to return and other features of life returning to some semblance of normal – whatever that is.

And as much as we are seeing some significant excitement on a return to play, what should not be lost in this moment is the fact that the new CBA will run through the 2025-2026 season. That’s not insignificant.

The COVID-19 pandemic basically forced the NHL’s hand on a CBA extension, what with the current one set to expire in September of 2022. With a big thwack of revenue loss to work through, the league had to do some reconfiguration. Estimates have the NHL set to lose over a billion dollars in the 2019-2020 campaign and more in the 2020-2021 season due to reduced ticket sales.

So, for the first time in months, it looks like hockey’s back in business. We have dates on the calendar and we have a CBA that sets the stage for years to come, which is an important detail in these times.

The NHLPA ratification vote is expected to take place sometime this week.

Image: Michael Robinson/Rogers

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