The NHL and NHLPA are now "looking ahead" to a time in mid-to-late May in which the players may be able to return to team facilities to begin working in small groups, according to a statement released by the NHL and NHLPA on Wednesday.
The statement read:
Given recent developments in some NHL Clubs’ local communities, we are now looking ahead to a Phase 2 of the transition period that would follow the currently recommended Phase 1 period of “self-quarantine” by Players and Hockey Staff.
The precise date of transition to Phase 2, during which Players might return to small group activities in NHL Club training facilities, remains undetermined. However, provided that conditions continue to trend favorably – and, subject to potential competitive concerns as between disparately situated markets – we believe we may be able to move to Phase 2 at some point in the mid-to-later portion of May.
In exploring possible plans to resume the season, the NHL defined four phases it would have to progress through. Phase 1 is a period of self-quarantine for the players and staff. The NHL has been in Phase 1 since the season was paused on March 12. This statement is about transitioning from Phase 1 to Phase 2, which is defined as players training in small groups at team facilities. Phase 3 is the opening of training camps, and Phase 4 is the resumption of play.
If the league is able to progress to Phase 2 in May, that would mark a significant step towards salvaging the current season. But, like everything related to coronavirus, there are numerous questions that still need to be answered before we get to that point, most notably the competitive disadvantage this could present to some teams as noted in the statement.
Not every NHL location is at the same point in the coronavirus pandemic. There could be a scenario in which local guidelines prevent some teams from reopening their facilities. Will every team have to wait to progress to Phase 2 until every location has the coronavirus under control? If not, how much of a disadvantage will that create for the teams and players located in regions that have felt a greater impact during the pandemic?
And while the possibility of reopening any facilities in May would seem like a step in the right direction in terms of returning to play, Wednesday's statement also clarified that there remains no timetable for the season to resume.
"Despite numerous reports and speculation over the last several days, the NHL and the NHLPA have not made any decisions or set a timeline for possible return to play scenarios."
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