A summer session of NHL hockey is becoming more of a possibility.
The league and players association announced Monday they tentatively agreed to a return to play plan and to add another four years to the current collective bargaining agreement.
Training camps are scheduled to open next Monday, with the season starting back up Aug. 1.
These details still need to be approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors, the NHL Players’ Association executive board and the entire NHLPA membership, a review process that’s expected to take place over the next few days.
Finalizing the protocols for camp and games headlined the league’s efforts to salvage the season that was put on hold March 12 by the coronavirus pandemic. The NHL and its players agreed in May to a 24-team tournament to claim the 2019-20 Stanley Cup.
This format includes the top 12 teams from the Western and Eastern Conferences based on points percentage; the top four from each conference will face off against each other to determine seeding, and the remaining eight will play in a best-of-five qualifying round to advance. From there, a traditional four-round, best-of-seven playoffs will commence.
The NHL reportedly has chosen Edmonton and Toronto as its two hub cities to host the games, with the West descending on Edmonton and the East in Toronto. Teams will travel to their respective hub cities on July 26.
Just a point shy of a wild-card berth when the regular season stopped, the Wild is the 10th seed in the Western Conference and will take on No. 7 Vancouver in its qualifying matchup.
“We’ve all been extremely positive and optimistic that we’re going to be able to play and finish the season and award a Stanley Cup,” interim coach Dean Evason said in June. “We’re just excited about having the opportunity to battle for it.”
The team can invite no more than 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies to camp, but all players in attendance must be eligible to play the remainder of the season.
Players can opt out of playing without discipline and penalty. Teams must submit a list of players participating in camp no later than Thursday. Players determined to be at substantial risk of developing a serious illness because of exposure to COVID-19 will be deemed unfit to play.
During camp, testing for COVID-19 will be conducted on an every-other-day basis. Players must check their temperature and symptoms at home before leaving for the team’s facility, and they’ll also be evaluated when they enter the rink. They’re advised to stay at home as much as possible and to avoid unnecessary interactions with non-family members.
A maximum of 52 personnel per team will travel to the hub cities and live in a bubble-like atmosphere; these groups include a roster of no more than 31 players. Families can join players at the conference finals.
Once the games begin, players, team personnel and other essential workers on site — like officials, certain hotel staff members and food servers — will undergo daily testing.
Self-isolation, testing and contract tracing are steps the league plans to take if a player tests positive. Unless approved by the NHL and NHLPA, teams will not disclose a player’s positive test result.
Like the voluntary workouts that have been ongoing at team facilities, social distancing, face coverings and cleaning/disinfecting remain priorities in camp and during games.
Violations of the guidelines for camp and the rest of the season will result in penalties such as fines or loss of draft choices.
At any point if the NHL or NHLPA believes there’s a risk to player health and safety, such an uncontrolled outbreak of COVID-19, the two sides will consult with medical personnel and the NHL can decide to postpone, delay, move or cancel training camp or games.