National Hockey League planned announcement signals return to play inching closer

National Hockey League planned announcement signals return to play inching closer

On Tuesday, the league, which was forced to pause its season March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, released a memo Monday announcing it's targeting early next month as the start date for Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol, including the opening of practice rinks and allowing small, voluntary group workouts on and off the ice.

The remaining 16 teams will be seeded by conference, setting up best-of-five series in the East of No. 5 Pittsburgh vs.

Bettman also indicated that the Return To Play Committee is still discussing if the first and second round of the playoffs will be best-of-five or best-of-seven, but confirmed the conference final and Stanley Cup Final will be best-of-seven.

Under Phase 2, players will be able to work out and skate at National Hockey League practice facilities, as long as local regulations allow for it, in groups of no more than six.

There is no information included in the document regarding training camps (Phase 3) and the resumption of play (Phase 4).

Before reporting to a facility, players will self-administer symptom and temperature checks at home, and another check will be conducted at the entrance of the facility.

Clubs were told to contact local health authorities to determine whether asymptomatic players and personnel are eligible for such tests, "provided that doing so does not take testing resources away from Publicly Necessary Testing".

The NHL and its players still have plenty of work to do, including receiving the go-ahead from government and health officials, timing, the location of hub cities, testing procedures and ensuring the safety of everyone involved. The players will be isolated from their families during the postseason.

In addition, the protocol said, "Players shall be encouraged to shower at home wherever possible", and they must leave their workout clothes and anything they used during their workout at the facility.

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.

"It has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last", the memo read. All personnel must wear face coverings except while exercising.

The teams would play in two hub cities, one for Eastern Conference teams and one for Western Conference clubs.

"The seven clubs that did not resume play and the eight qualifying round clubs that do not advance into the playoffs will enter the draft lottery", Bettman said.

The memo - which was signed by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, senior vice president and deputy general counsel Julie Grand and chief medical officer Dr. Willem Meeuwisse - said a list of high-risk environments will be given to clubs after the league and NHLPA consult.

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