Now three games into the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL offseason is nearly upon us and, unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is still a thing. As a result, the league released new health and safety protocols for the 2020 offseason on Thursday which will allow for team facilities to open as early as Oct. 15.
The official rule is that the facilities must open within a week after a group of at least five players requests access, but no earlier than Oct. 15. Using team facilities will require players to go through certain protocols and adhere to certain guidelines that are similar to the Phase 2 guidelines we saw in the summer when the league began unofficial workouts. No more than 12 players can be on the ice at the same time and no more than six people in the weight room. Players will have to undergo daily tests and temperature checks. An added measure will be that every player who tests positive will have to go through a cardiac screening. Team facilities will be open to players, staff and team personnel, but there will be no access for media, family or personal coaches and agents.
These protocols were released while the league is still working to determine when the 2020-21 season will actually start. No official start date has been set, nor has a format for the season been determined. Setting a potential start date for team facilities at Oct. 15 is pretty surprising considering it's less than a month away. The league's early target date for the start of the 2020-21 season was Dec. 1, but that date already seems unrealistic at this point and a late December or January start is far more likely.
But, with the hockey calendar already shaken up by the late postseason, the option of early access to team facilities could benefit players who will remain in their team's city, notably parents whose kids will already have started school. Those players won't be able to spend their offseasons away considering it is already September.