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NHL, NHLPA reach agreement on health protocols

The National Hockey League and NHL Players Association have agreed on health and safety protocols to resume its 2019-20 season amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to multiple reports.

Plans for the restart, however, remain tied to the two sides reaching an agreement on extending the overall collective bargaining agreement, with that process not yet complete. Both the union and league’s Board of Governors will also need to ratify the entire package, which would end the season suspension that began in March due to the public health crisis.

Bill Daly, deputy league commissioner, told the Associated Press that was an agreement on protocols for training camps and upcoming games, representing the final two steps of a four-phase resumption plan. But those protocols will only go into effect if the broader labor deal is also approved.

If everything is approved, the league would commence a modified 24-team plan to resume play in either late July or early August. The league and union have honed in on the Canadian markets of Edmonton and Toronto as “hub cities” for that season resumption.

Not unlike the quarantined return-to-play plans for other entities such as the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer, the NHL plan relies on strict protocols on where players can go and who comes into contact with them. Testing will be conducted daily of not only players and team employees, but also of hotel, restaurant, and arena staff that come in contact with them.

The plan also gives the league and union the ability to postpone, delay, or relocate the games due to heightened risk factors. Teams violating protocols will be subject to significant penalties that could include fines and the loss of draft picks. Players can choose to participate without penalty, but players are also subject to discipline if protocols are not followed.