The National Hockey League and NHL Players Association have targeted July 10 for the opening of training camps and a move to Phase 3 of its four-part plan to resume play amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The move follows a prior move earlier this week into the second phase of the plan that allows for the start of limited, voluntary small-group workouts with players skating in groups of up to six at a time. Establishing the intended Phase 3 date four weeks from now for the start of training camps allows time for players, particularly European ones, to return to North America from where they have sheltered in place, and deal with immigration and quarantining issues. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said recently that 17 per cent of the league’s players were overseas.
A date for the final phase of play, resuming play, has not been established. But the league earlier this month did unveil its format for a 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs. It is expected that training camp will last about two to three weeks, which would suggest a start of games somewhere in late July or early August.
That timetable is very similar to the planned July 31 restart for the National Basketball Association in Orlando, Florida.
The NHL and NHLPA, however, said in a joint statement that the training camps will only open “provided that medical and safety conditions allow and the parties have reached an overall agreement on resuming play.” The league and union are continuing to negotiate over a wide range of resumption-related issues, notably those health and safety protocols, as well as which two cities will serve as the “hub” sites for the reformatted playoffs.