The NHL has delayed the start of Phase 3, when training camps would formally start, from no sooner than July 10 to no sooner than July 13, while negotiations between the league and the NHLPA on finalizing the Return to Play agreement and a brand spanking new CBA, which would reportedly keep the labor peace until the end of the 2025-26 season, continue in earnest.
By all accounts the two hub cities for the postseason will be Edmonton and Toronto, with the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders best-of-five series most likely taking place at Scotiabank Arena in the so-called Center of the Hockey Universe. Edmonton, which has a lower incidence of covid-19, will host both Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final.
This year’s playoff pool for the players will double to $32 million. The pool is set much higher this year since eight more teams are participating and players are being bubbled up away from home during the coronavirus pandemic. One could look at the extra funds as hazard pay, which seems more than fair.
Any player who doesn’t want to participate will have the right to opt out of the postseason without penalty, which again is more than fair.
There will be covid-19 pre-testing before the players depart to Edmonton and Toronto from their home cities.
Once inside the bubble environments created in the two Canadian cities, daily testing will take place, with each team will having a set time they are tested. If a player needs to leave the hub for an emergency situation, there will be protocols in place for that player to re-enter the bubble. I am sure there will also be a system set up for dealing with players that test positive during the tournament so they can rejoin the playoffs once healthy if their team hasn’t been eliminated yet.
Everyone will get their own hotel room and as expected in the new normal, face coverings will be mandatory at all times inside the bubble, with social distancing rules in effect, including restrictions on the number of people allowed in lobbies and inside elevators.
It was hoped that all the details of the two intertwined agreements would be sorted out for a vote this weekend, but all Is and Ts haven’t been dotted yet. July 13 is fast approaching, so expect a vote, and ratification, by both sides during the coming week.