National Hockey League targets return to practice in early June

Kyle Palmieri

On Sunday, the league circulated a memo to teams with guidelines about how players can return to the ice for small-group practices.

Based on the current information available, we are now targeting a date in early June for a transition to Phase 2. The NHL paused its season on March 12 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Before the regular season was suspended by the pandemic, the team was one point out of a berth in the tradition 16-team Stanley Cup field.

If a COVID-19 test comes back positive, the player/staff member's team will conduct contract tracing in conjunction with local health regulations.

Both the top four in the West and the top four in the East would be given a bye from competing in this play-in tournament but would play games against each other before the playoffs begin. They will also be perform daily self-administered temperature and symptom checks at home before heading to their team's facility.

"We recognize that players and personnel have family and household members who may fall into these vulnerable categories".

According to Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia, players returning to Canada from the United States will still need to go through the 14-day quarantine period before joining the skates.

Players who live in National Hockey League markets other than where they play will be permitted to use local facilities, pending availability, meaning they won't have to travel back to their team's home cities for Phase 2. Bettman said the hub cities have yet to be determined, but Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver are on the league's short list.

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Under the new training protocols, a maximum of six players will be allowed to train together, with no coaches or team personnel allowed on the ice.

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. Players must wear face coverings when entering and leaving the facility and inside where social distancing isn't possible.

Teams are also not allowed to require a player to return to a club's home city to complete any necessary quarantine measures before the workouts begin. Players won't be permitted to use hot and cold tubs, saunas, or steam rooms and they have been advised not to carpool or take public transportation to a club facility. And our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion.

"It has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last", the memo read. Face coverings aren't required when players are on the ice or exercising.

Updated cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be observed by each team before their facilities reopen and each team must appoint a Club Facility Hygiene Officer to oversee sanitizing procedures.

"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.

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