NHL releases detailed protocol for Phase 2 in potential step toward resuming 2019-20 season

NHL releases detailed protocol for Phase 2 in potential step toward resuming 2019-20 season

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.

Testing

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).

Self-quarantine

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.

Permitted activities

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

What's next?

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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It sure sounds like Penguins were wary of Carey Price in a 3-game series, but can you blame them?

It sure sounds like Penguins were wary of Carey Price in a 3-game series, but can you blame them?

Updated: 11 p.m.

Carey Price has become a big topic of discussion with this potential 24-team playoff setup as the NHL looks for the best way to finish the 2019-20 season.

So much so that the fear of the Canadiens' goalie apparently curtailed the idea of the play-in round being held as best-of-three series.

Montreal is projected to be a lower seed and would not make the postseason if the league used its regular 16-team format. Price, a six-time All-Star and 2014-15 Vezina Trophy winner, makes the 31-31-9 Canadiens a scary opening matchup, particularly in a short series because he has the capability of stealing a few games simply by himself.

That would end a team's season in a best-of-three fashion.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said Friday on 590 The FAN's Lead Off with Mike Zigomanis and Scott MacArthur that the NHLPA pushed back on the best-of-three play-in idea. Now, the play-in round for the 24-team tournament looks to have a best-of-five format.

The reasoning has a Penguins twist. In the Eastern Conference, Pittsburgh is the No. 5 seed, slotted to face the 12th-seeded Canadiens.

Let's make no mistake about it, one of the reasons, the league initially suggested this play-in round be two out of three and the players said no way," Friedman said. "They felt it was not acceptable enough for the teams that had a better regular season, and Pittsburgh looked at its matchup and it said, ‘You know, two out of three against Carey Price is not fair for a team that had zero percentage points to play in the playoffs.’

"I saw some debate online. That's what social media is for — to rage at each other. People are saying, 'Carey Price sucks, his numbers are terrible, people are stupid for thinking about that.' Man, if the players feel that way, the players feel that way. He's the guy they've got to shoot against and they clearly believe that he is a difference-maker.

Very interesting.

This season, the 32-year-old Price is 27-25-6 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. However, he has been regarded as one of the league's best goalies over the last decade, a guy that has often carried the Canadiens. In three meetings with the Penguins this season, Price went 1-1-1 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

Overall, it sounds like most were not too fond about the possibility of a contending team being ousted for only two bad games against what was originally a non-playoff club.

That's a valid point.

Were the Penguins — the three-time Stanley Cup champs since 2009 — leading that charge, though, just because Price was on the other side of their matchup?

It makes you think. It's also hard to blame them for whistling that scenario.

The Flyers can at least smile knowing if they see Mr. Price, they'll get seven tries to beat him four times.

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Two possible matchups for Flyers in report on 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs scenario

Two possible matchups for Flyers in report on 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs scenario

With the NHL's return to play committee continuing to discuss scenarios for a potential resumption of the 2019-20 season, the 24-team tournament will reportedly be a big topic moving forward.

The NHL and NHLPA are looking at a 24-team conference-based playoff setup, according to a report Wednesday night by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Per the report, the format would give the top four seeds in each conference (based on points percentage) a bye past the play-in round, which would be a best-of-five situation with the rest of the playoffs being played in best-of-seven series.

In such a scenario, the Flyers would be the East's fourth seed and face the winner of the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup between the Penguins and Canadiens. If the NHL chose the top-12 teams points percentage-wise, here would be the seeds in the Eastern Conference:

1. Bruins
2. Lightning
3. Capitals
4. Flyers
5. Penguins
6. Hurricanes
7. Islanders
8. Maple Leafs
9. Blue Jackets
10. Panthers
11. Rangers
12. Canadiens

On a few important aspects in the report, Friedman was careful to note:

• Let’s be clear: nothing is set in stone. The teams and players must still approve it, but discussions on the proposal could happen as soon as Thursday.

• [The top four seeds] would receive byes through the play-in, but participate in a three-game tournament to get some action. I confess I’m not certain of all the details on if or how it would affect playoff seeding.

"There are a bunch of different formats being talked about," James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers' NHLPA representative, said Wednesday on a conference call. "It’s hard to really say what the leader is just because things can change, nothing is really certain until it’s certain, things can change so quickly. Different things that probably were looked at earlier on probably aren’t feasible now.

"There are different things that can change, so it’s hard to say there’s a real leader but we’re trying to keep as many options open and navigate through different things and hopefully come up with a decision that … first and foremost is the health and safety of everyone and from there it’s to try to find something that keeps that integrity and competitiveness that is so great about our game and is so great about the Stanley Cup."

Say Pittsburgh took down Montreal, how would the Flyers match up against the Penguins? In three games during the regular season, the Flyers went 1-1-1 against Pittsburgh. Each game was considerably different as the Penguins blasted the Flyers, 7-1, in October. The Flyers then dominated Pittsburgh, 3-0, in January before losing to it, 4-3, in overtime later that month.

In April, Penguins assistant coach Mark Recchi said he felt the Flyers would give Pittsburgh a "dogfight" in the playoffs.

The Canadiens would also make for an interesting matchup. Facing goalie Carey Price would not be a fun date for the Flyers. The six-time All-Star and 2014-15 Vezina Trophy winner has the ability to win a series by himself. He's also 16-11-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 30 career games against the Flyers.

During November, the Flyers beat the Canadiens twice in overtime — 3-2 in Philly, then 4-3 in Montreal — before losing to them, 4-1, in January.

Regardless, the Flyers have put themselves in good position. They can wait and see a little more comfortably.

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