With that August 1 return to play date looming and a new CBA set to be ratified that ensures several years of labour peace, it’s a good time to be a hockey fan.
Training camps are opening on July 13 and NHL teams will get down to the business of playing again. That means we can talk matchups and playoffs and actual hockey in short order.
And there are rumours of hub cities in Edmonton and Toronto, although these have not been officially announced as of yet.
In order to make all this happen, we have to have protocol for Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the NHL return. Lots and lots of protocol. 48 pages of it, to be exact. You can check out Phase 3 protocol here and Phase 4 protocol here.
So what does this all mean?
In terms of Phase 3, it means training camps. All the way. That means full team activities on and off the ice, with players and hockey staff in the mix. Up to 30 skaters eligible for the playoffs can participate at any one time, plus any number of goalies.
Players can opt out of returning to play if they notify their teams within 72 hours of CBA ratification. There is no penalty for opting out.
Off the ice, social distancing principles are in full effect. That means you have to be about six feet apart in off-ice interactions in team facilities. Get-togethers and interactions outside of team facilities are frowned upon. Face coverings are encouraged and necessary when leaving and entering club facilities.
The NHL will permit families to join players in hotels if they don’t have permanent residences in the cities where training camps are located.
And there will be COVID-19 testing before and after returning to team facilities. This includes daily symptom checks, temperature checks, and other tests within two hours of entering club facilities.
Anyone testing positive will be self-isolated and must immediately notify all relevant personnel. Those testing positive for COVID-19 must have two negative tests 24 hours apart before they will be permitted to join their respective teams. Players must spend a minimum of 10 days in self-isolation after a positive test.
The NHL can quite simply not afford to lay a foot wrong during the critical Phase 3 period. Returning to full play depends on a successful return to training camp, so you can bet they’re taking every precaution.
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