The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have taken a massive step towards resuming the pandemic-hit 2019-20 season later this summer — and securing labour peace for the foreseeable future.
The league and its union announced Monday the two sides have hammered out details on tentative agreements for the return-to-play protocol and a memorandum of understanding on a four-year extension of the current collective bargaining agreement.
The NHL board of governors, the NHLPA’s executive board and full membership must now ratify the deals, which are tied together, in separate votes. If proposals get the green light, training camps would begin July 13, with the 24 teams set to resume play heading to the league’s two designated hub cities on July 26.
Game action would then commence Aug. 1.
The proposed CBA, hashed out in the shadow of unprecedented economic conditions brought on by COVID-19, would bring at least 14 years of harmony after lockouts wiped out the 2004-05 season and cut the 2012-13 campaign to just 48 games.
The new deal would end following the 2025-26 season.
Toronto considered as NHL hub city
The league has yet to announce the two hubs for its return-to-play plan this summer, but Toronto and Edmonton are believed to be the destinations. The league and players unveiled the format for a resumption of play in late May.
The plan to resuscitate the season calls for players to be segregated from the general population in tightly-controlled “bubbles” — games will be played without fans in attendance — in hopes of keeping the novel coronavirus at bay. The NHL, which has said it will test players daily once competition begins, has consistently maintained one or more positive results wouldn’t necessarily derail the restart.
The NHL and the NHLPA outlined extensive health and safety measures for training camps and resumption of play Monday — referred to as Phase 3 and Phase 4, respectively, of its return-to-play plan — in two documents totalling 47 pages.
Vancouver, Las Vegas, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis/St. Paul were the other cities originally in the running to be hubs.
The NHL, which was forced to halt its schedule March 12 because of COVID-19, will restart with a format that includes eight best-of-five qualifying round series before pivoting to the typical 16-team playoffs. It’s hoped the Stanley Cup will be awarded sometime in the fall.
Las Vegas was viewed as a hub front-runner because its massive hotel complexes could be more-easily secured in a bubble scenario until a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across large swaths of the United States — the death toll there currently stands at more than 130,000 people — likely made the destination far less appealing.
© 2020 The Canadian Press