The NHL on Monday released a protocol for a potential Phase 2 in its hope to eventually resume the season and award the Stanley Cup.
Phase 2 would see players being allowed to return to team practice facilities for voluntary small-group individualized training activities, whether it be on or off the ice.
The NHL is targeting a date in early June for an implementation of Phase 2, "however, it has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last," the league stated.
The 2019-20 season was suspended on March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak. The league is hoping to resume the season under a 24-team format, but specific details for such a scenario are to be determined.
As for Phase 2, here is a section from the NHL's memorandum:
We are continuing to monitor developments in each of the club’s markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate, following discussion with all relevant parties.
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. We again emphasize that player participation in Phase 2 is strictly voluntary. In addition, clubs are not permitted to require players to return to the club’s home city so they can complete a quarantine requirement in time to participate in Phase 2.
Clubs whose local health authorities would allow for the reopening of club facilities will be required to consult with and seek approval from the league prior to any reopening of club facilities. In those jurisdictions which continue to restrict or prohibit such activity from occurring, and in order to address potential competitive concerns, the league will work with those clubs to facilitate alternative arrangements, if desired. Further, clubs are required to comply with the public health mandates and recommended best practices of the CDC and/or Public Health Agency of Canada (“Health Canada”) applicable to them and the facility in which Phase 2 activities are to take place, including any changes to such recommendations that may take place after the commencement of Phase 2.
Let's look at some of the key points from the league's memorandum, which you can read in full here.
Players and club personnel shall be administered laboratory-based RT-PCR tests 48 hours prior to anyone returning to their team's training facility. The testing "must be done in the context of excess testing capacity, so as to not deprive health care workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals from necessary diagnostic tests," the league stated.
To determine if this will be feasible in each club’s local market, clubs shall engage with your local health authorit(ies) (as well as any other applicable health authorities such as state, provincial or federal) to determine whether asymptomatic players and other club personnel are eligible under applicable regulations and local conditions to receive PCR tests, either publicly or privately, provided that doing so does not take testing resources away from publicly necessary testing.
If testing is not available at the start of Phase 2, players who wish to participate in Phase 2 activities and “Player Access” club personnel must self-quarantine for 14 days prior to entering the facility (or, certify that they have already served a self-quarantine for the prior 14 days in the club’s home market, in which event they will be eligible to enter the facility when Phase 2 begins).
Before being allowed access to club facilities, players and permitted personnel may be required to serve a 14-day self-quarantine period imposed by local health authorities, regardless of their mode of travel (private or charter travel).
Even if not imposed by the local health authorities, such individuals returning to the club’s home city by public transportation, including commercial air or rail travel, must serve a 14-day self-quarantine period post-travel before engaging in training activities at their club’s facility.
If players and personnel departed this week for their respective club's city, it would allow them access to the facility sometime in the second week of June, if the league has decided to implement Phase 2.
Six players are permitted inside the facility per session, while coaches and hockey operations personnel will be allowed to observe "the player-only non-contact skates commencing on the later of the date on which the commencement of training camp is announced by the League or two weeks after the club’s commencement of Phase 2 activities," the league stated.
Skating will consist of non-contact sessions with appropriate social distancing.
When players are not participating in on-ice activities they will be permitted to utilize the club’s exercise and weight room equipment, or receive individual treatment from the club’s medical/training staff:
• Weight training that does not include the need for a spotter
• Circuit-based activities such as resistance training
• Cardiovascular exercises and endurance training
• Rehabilitation and treatment for players with ongoing disabling injuries and for players with non-disabling injuries, may be provided as directed by club medical/training staff
There is no firm date for Phase 2. But if the NHL implements it in early June, it could allow for eventual training camps in late June and a possible resumption of the season at some point in July.
That roadmap is in complete theory. The situation will continue to be a day-to-day process for the NHL. Things can change and there are still many obstacles but the detailed plan for Phase 2 is a potential step forward.
June is when the Stanley Cup is typically awarded and the month in which the NHL entry draft is normally held. The NHL will soon have decisions to make on the date of the currently-postponed draft. There could also be an announcement this week on the specifics of the 24-team format. Here's how it could look for the Flyers.
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