The NHL and NHL Players' Association came to a tentative agreement on a Return to Play plan and added four years to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement on Monday evening.
Players will report to their team facilities by July 13 for training camps as the league attempts to return from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Twenty four teams will travel to the two hub cities, Toronto and Edmonton, on July 26 for round-robin games, qualifying playoff games and the full 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs.
The memorandum of understanding still must be approved by the full NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s Executive Board and full membership. That process will take place this week with no formal date set for ratification by all parties.
That brings the NHL a huge step closer to its long-awaited return to the ice. There are still hurdles between now and then, however.
MLS was set to begin play this week on its own before FC Dallas had to withdraw from the MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando when 10 players and a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. The NHL shut down on March 12 and entered the day with 35 players testing positive for the novel coronavirus since June 8.
There is still a long way to go before the Capitals arrive in Toronto to play round-robin games against the Flyers, Bruins and Lightning. Those games and the qualifying round for now are set to start Aug. 1.
That’s the big news for this season. There was more news for the future, though. The NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement was set to expire after the 2021-22 season.
Now, it will continue through 2025-26. NHL players will return to the Winter Olympics in 2022 (Beijing) and 2026 (Milan) - as long as the league and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) can agree on terms. That’s always a giant question mark, but at least there’s hope there. Players were furious at having to miss the 2018 games in South Korea after the IIHF and the NHL failed to agree.
It could still be a week before NHL players can approve the deal and the coronavirus has proved for months it can wreck anything at any time. But for now, hockey is on track to return next month.
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