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NHL maintains hope for training camps in late April

The National Hockey League has laid out an updated potential scenario to return to action following the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that would see play resume in mid-May. But there are still numerous hurdles to clear before that could happen.

The league, like many others in the US, is following a recommendation issued last week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to not stage gatherings of more than 50 people until mid-May.

The NHL said March 23 that “assuming events are tracking positively, we would hope to be able to begin high-level guidance on the potential of opening a club training camp period roughly 45 days into the period covered by the CDC’s recommendation.”

That would mean beginning those camps at about the very end of April to allow players to prepare for a resumption of play, and games to restart in a little more than two weeks later. 

This timetable has been the NHL’s general hope since the issuance of the CDC guidance. But that scenario remains a very big if. The number of reported Covid-19 cases and deaths in the US continues to accelerate, and a long-desired flattening of the curve in the number of cases has not yet happened. And an increasing number of jurisdictions around the country as a result are imposing heightened prohibitions around any sort of mass or public gatherings. 

All NHL players are currently being directed to self-quarantine. And there are two members of the Ottawa Senators who have tested positive for Covid-19, and are showing mild symptoms. 

The league also said this week there has not been any sort of scheduling decisions made regarding the remainder of the 2019-20 season, either regular season or playoffs. 

“The form and format of resumption of play scenarios will depend entirely on what transpires between now and when we are permitted and able to resume – and, ultimately, on timing and taking into account logistical constraints. We are going to have to be flexible and react to events as they unfold,” the league said.

Regardless of what happens there, though, the NHL did say it does not anticipate that any sort of extension or lengthening of the current season will not preclude the league from staging a normal 2020-21 season in its entirety. No decisions, however, have been made regarding offseason events such as the NHL Draft and Combine.