The National Hockey League is planning its return. In a video message posted earlier today, Commissioner Gary Bettman said that both the fans and the players want the NHL to bring the 2019-2020 season to a close, and that the NHL will do that. He stressed that the health and safety of everyone involved is their main priority. He said that the regular season is over, and when play begins, 24 teams will compete in the postseason. Two cities will host – one for the eastern conference, one for the western. The cities will be announced later (he announced a shortlist of candidate cities), but each city will have a secure arena, hotel facilities, practice facilities and transportation. Each team will be limited to 50 people in the hub cities. He said that there would be a comprehensive system of testing.
The NHL is currently looking to move to Phase 2 of their four-phase return-to-play plan. A memo outlining the plan was posted to NHL.com over the weekend. Per the memo, “Based on the current information available, we are now targeting a date in early June for a transition to Phase 2.” The league has been in its Phase 1 self-quarantine period since Mar. 13.
Phase 2 will see a return to small-group, voluntary workouts held at team facilities. In Phase 2, coaches and staff members will not be allowed on the ice with the players, and groups will be limited to six skaters and held without any sort of contact.
The lack of coaches and skater limitations are far from the only rules that come with Phase 2. Players must be tested 48 hours prior to returning to the team facilities, and players will have to do daily temperature checks at home before making their way to the facility. Any player with a temperature over 99.5° F will not be allowed into the facility, according to the memo. Players must wear masks when off the ice and not exercising.
When it comes to off-ice staff members, coaches can watch from the facility but are not allowed to have any face-to-face interaction with the players, and any trainers on site must wear gloves at all times.
Any team caught in violation of these rules will be subject to fines or loss of draft picks.
Phase 3 will entail formal training camps, that start no earlier than July 1. Phase 4 will be the start of the post-season. “Obviously, we anticipate playing through the summer and into the early fall,” Bettman said. They don’t have concrete dates for this. Watch his entire video here.