NHL, NHLPA agree on protocols to resume play and target start date

The NHL and NHL Players Association finalized an agreement on official protocols for Phase 3 and 4 of the “Return to Play” plan for the 2019-20 season, but continue to work through details for a memorandum of understanding for a collective bargaining agreement extension, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press.

The final package of both the “Return to Play” protocols and CBA will need to be ratified by the NHLPA executive committee — which is comprised of one representative for all 31 teams — before passing a full membership vote once the negotiations are complete. The NHL’s board of governors must also ratify the package.

In order for the “Return to Play” protocols to go into effect, both the league and NHLPA would need to approve the full package. Two-thirds of the league’s board of governors and a majority of the players’ executive committee and full membership would need to vote in favor for everything to pass.

Negotiations are seemingly beginning to wrap up as Phase 3, the start to training camp, is scheduled to begin on July 13. Team facilities have been holding voluntary small-group workouts since June 8 as part of Phase 2 nearly three months since the 2019-20 season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kaapo Kakko celebrates with Mika Zibanejad.AP

In the proposed agreement, players are allowed to opt out of the summer playoffs without penalty. Players on expiring contracts who decide not to participate in the 24-team tournament are permitted to sign with another league later this month.

According to TSN, the NHL is targeting July 26 for teams to report to their respective hub cities and Aug. 1 for the official start of the 24-team playoff tournament. The Post confirmed last week that Phase 4 will be hosted by Toronto and Edmonton.

Part of the proposed Phase 4 protocol permits players’ families to join for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final and will be allowed to share hotel rooms, per TSN. NHL policy reportedly says that any teams who fail to comply with “bubble” protocols could be subjected to “significant financial penalties, and potentially the loss of draft picks.”

Players who receive authorization to leave for medical reasons or extenuating circumstances can come back, but must quarantine upon return and receive four negative COVID-19 tests over a four-day span, according to TSN’s report.

The report also says the list of people scheduled to be tested daily within the NHL’s bubble includes players, coaches, staff members, officials, ice crew, security, hotel bartenders, food service staff, arena food and beverage staffers, hotel housekeeping, hotel kitchen staff and drivers.

The NHL announced last week that a total of 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the voluntary workouts began. In addition, the league said it was aware of 11 other players who tested positive outside of the voluntary workout protocol.

The latest slew of coronavirus cases in the NHL surfaced this past weekend when multiple St. Louis Blues players tested positive and had to cancel their team workouts this past weekend, according to several reports Friday. Practices are expected to resume Monday.

— With AP

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