Despite last week’s flurry of positive COVID-19 cases, the NHL is carrying along on schedule.
According to ESPN, the league knew that it was inevitable that there would be outbreaks during Phase 2 because it involves players to be out and about. The goal, apparently, is that in Phase 3 and Phase 4, there will be more restrictions and monitoring of players in “bubble environments”, making outbreaks less likely.
The league and the Players’ Association are still in negotiations around the specifics of what Phase 3 and Phase 4 will look like.
Despite that uncertainty, Larry Brooks of the New York Post has reported that the NHL is planning for the playoff tournament to begin on July 30th. There’s expected to be a two-week training camp before teams fly to their respective hub cities on July 23 and 24th. Once they’re at their hub cities, teams will play one exhibition game before meaningful games kick off with the qualifying rounds.
That said, the timelines presented by Brooks seems quite optimistic given the fact the players haven’t agreed to specifications around the bubble settings they’ll be entering.
There’s speculation that the Players’ Association will push for a full vote involving all players rather than just an executive board. That could put a wrench in the NHL’s plans for a late-July return as, according to ESPN, one league veteran thinks the players are split down the middle on whether to return.
“[Players are] 50-50 on wanting to come back to play, because of the safety precautions, travel and logistics. Especially now with these cases rising, it seems more guys with families are skeptical.”