NHL fans and followers should be happy because the NHL and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) are working very hard on a return plan, including implementing health and safety protocols in order to resume the season and the run on the Stanley Cup.  Due to the pandemic, the NHL season was suspended on March 12 and this action has affected the NHL and all sports around the world, as well as the entire gaming industry.

But, still some procedures and protocols must be approved before the restart of the season.  Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly announced on Sunday that specific protocols should be followed in training camps and games for protecting the NHL players.  The extension of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is still in negotiations.

NHL Return Plan Ready For The Ice

Formulating a new CBA is not something that can easily happen since at least two-thirds of the league’s board of governors and the rest of the membership have to vote in favor and agree with the full package of the contract.  However, hockey followers don’t need to be discouraged because important actions are being taken so the return to play can be a reality.  The sports industry is expecting to regain lost ground and money.

As mentioned prior, the NHL season was shut down in mid-March due to the havoc caused by COVID-19 all across the US and all the casualties there have been so far.  Even though this was a terrible impact for the gaming and gambling industry, the players’ safety is now a priority above all.

If the return plan to play is approved, games are supposed to resume in late July or in early August with 24 teams, 12 in each conference, participating in the NHL playoffs.  The Stanley Cup will be contested in October if all pans out, and it looks like both conferences will be making a trip to Canada to finish out the season.  This is good news for everybody who loves hockey, people will enjoy watching again the fantastic NHL games.

The Stanley Cup Plan

The final NHL games in the return plan will be hosted in two hub cities from Canada.  Edmonton will include the Western Conference and Toronto, the Eastern Conference.  Everybody is anxious for the playoffs, but also concerned about the possibility of another season cancellation because of COVID-19.

The protocols for the return to play and CBA are strict, and everything must be approved the full vote of the players and the board of governors.  On the same page, ESPN mentioned that this protocol has an agreement in which players will not be punished if they decide to be out of the competition and they’re not required to give a reason, so it is up to the player if he wants to be in or out of the NHL tournament.

The sports media giant explains, “The protocols include an agreement that no player will be penalized if he chooses to opt out, and he does not have to give a reason for wanting to opt out.  Players have until 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday to notify their teams if they are opting out, sources say.  Family members will not be able to join players in the bubble until the conference finals, a source says, and if teams do not comply with the protocols, it could lead to ‘significant financial penalties’ and potential loss of draft picks.”

Players Are Anxious To Suit Up

On June 11, the NHL and the players union decided to begin formal training because medical and safety policies were enough for players to get back on the ice.  If everything goes well, hockey teams are ready to start their camps on July 13 before traveling to the hub cities.  Since June, NHL players were allowed to train voluntarily in small groups so they are in good shape and can get ready for the expected upcoming season.

Frank Seravalli from TSN gave some guidelines regarding the safety protocols: in case hockey players are forced to leave the bubble due to medical reasons or personal circumstances, they are allowed to return but will be mandated to remain in quarantine and have four negative tests over a four-day stint, or longer, depending on the location or situation they have been in.