Hockey is now getting a little closer.
The NHL released a 21-page document on Monday that outlines Phase 2 of returning to play for each of the 31 NHL teams. Phase 2 is defined as “the transition period following self-quarantine.”
“Based on the current information available, we are now targeting a date in early June for a transition to Phase 2,” said the NHL in the lengthy memo. “However, it has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last. As we have stated repeatedly, the health of the Players and Club personnel is our top priority, and that will dictate how Phase 2, and any progression thereafter, may evolve.”
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There are plenty of fine details about water bottles, food restrictions, and other minutiae that NHL players would face in a normal practice setting, but the bottom line is that NHL teams will be allowed to start skating in small groups. The skating sessions will be non-contact practice, and all coaches, club employees, and other club-contracted representatives will be prohibited from getting on the ice with the small groups of players.
Phase 2 is expected to begin in early June and will see NHL players skate in groups of six at NHL practice facilities around North America with limited staff and interaction aside from getting their skating legs back in shape. If all goes according to plan, the NHL would move into a training camp phase at some point in mid-June or early July, and then move on to starting the 24-team playoff tournament at some point in July.
Interesting to note some of the finer points of the memo:
-- All players using public transportation (commercial flights, for example) to get back to their NHL cities must undergo the 14-day quarantine period before they can get on the ice.
-- All players are expected to undergo a COVID-19 test with negative results before getting on the ice for Phase 2, and the hope is that, if they are readily available, all players and club personnel will be tested twice weekly moving forward from the beginning of Phase 2.
-- Daily temperature checks two hours prior to getting to the practice facility, and then another temperature check upon entering the NHL practice facility to work out.
-- An isolated case of COVID-19 on any particular team would not necessitate that an entire NHL team go into quarantine as a result.
-- Players working out at the NHL facilities are prohibited from doing any other skating or workouts at any other facility once they join into the workouts with their team.
-- Coaches and team personnel can begin to observe the skating sessions once A) a date for training camp has been announced by the NHL or B) two weeks have passed since the beginning of the Phase 2 practices.
Interesting stuff, to be sure, but the best news in all of this is that the Stanley Cup playoffs are one step closer to reality now that the Phase 2 rules and regulations have been released, and now it’s a matter of setting timetables in each of the 31 NHL cities to get the players on the ice.