The NHL and NHL Players' Association continues to take steps forward as it works towards resuming play, but there are still obstacles to overcome before officially doing so, despite moving into Phase 2 this week.
In a video conference call on Thursday, Blackhawks star Patrick Kane admitted nothing is official just yet and both sides still must come to an overall agreement on several key issues before feeling comfortable about returning.
"I think we have to be pretty cautious about that," Kane said. "I know the NHL has put out updates and what not, but I think as players, nothing has been agreed to yet. There's a long way to go before we reach a certain agreement where we would want to come back and play and feel safe enough and feel like it's the right deal for us to come back.
"Obviously, we're in the process of doing that and it's an ongoing process, but I think we have to be cautious about talking about certain dates and coming back when nothing is settled as of yet. It's still ongoing and hopefully it gets figured out."
The comments from Kane were noteworthy because nobody wants to play hockey more than him. He was one of the first players back on the ice at Fifth Third Arena on Wednesday. But, at the same time, these are unprecedented times and the league, owners and players must figure out a solution that works best for everyone, not just for this season but in the coming years, too.
"There's more than just being cautious and safe," Kane said. "There's a lot of different things with the negotiations that I think we don't need to dive into, but I just know that the players want a fair deal. That's the biggest thing. There's a bunch of different things, whether it's playing at the time we're playing, when next year's going to start, what our offseason's will look like down the road, a bunch of other things. But I just think the NHL is putting out these dates and I think, as players, we're talking a step back and saying, 'Why are these dates being put out when we haven't really agreed to anything yet?'
"So we just want to be cautious as players and put that message out that we want a fair shake at it. And if that happens, great, then we come back and are able to play, then everyone's all for that ... but you want it to be fair for the players too and everyone involved. We would be ecstatic to come back and play hockey, help grow the game and gain more fans, especially at a time like this. This is a great time to grow the game and gain some hockey fans. People are starving for sports. We would love to be able to give that to them, but, like I said, we want it to be fair."
While the tone of his message was clear, Kane also didn't want to sound too pessimistic about the possibility of hockey coming back. The NHL's 24-team Return to Play format put the Blackhawks on an equal playing field with eight other teams in the Western Conference, which suddenly gives them a shot at making a Stanley Cup run.
So you can imagine the feeling Kane and others have about the thought of playing postseason hockey after watching from home for the past two seasons.
"I don't want to get the message across that we're not excited about playing," Kane said. "I think all of us on the Blackhawks, we're excited that we were one of the last teams in and that we would have a chance to play for a playoff spot and hopefully go on a run to try and win a Stanley Cup. All of us are excited about that."