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U.S. women’s hockey players enjoying homecoming after gold medal win

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Twenty years after a cereal box changed her life, Meghan Duggan is pictured on one.

When the United States won the gold medal in 1998 at the first Olympics with women’s hockey, an 11-year-old Duggan met Gretchen Ulion and got the forward to autograph her Wheaties box and still has it in her parents’ house and a copy of their photo together with sister Katelyn on her phone. After winning gold at the Pyeongchang Games, the 30-year-old captain is featured on her own cereal box as the attention flows for the latest U.S. women’s hockey champions.

”We’re just taking in the win,” Duggan said at the NHL Stadium Series game at Navy between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. ”We were out in L.A. on ‘Ellen’ and coming and being a part of all these big NHL games and things like that, we’ve got some stuff coming up in New York City next week, which will be really fun.”

Appearing on the ”Today” show and Ellen DeGeneres’ show and being feted at Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning games and then outdoors at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is an impressive victory tour. The next step is for Duggan, shootout hero Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and their teammates to extend the traditional 15 minutes of fame and sustain the kind of long-lasting stardom that soccer player Mia Hamm, basketball player Lisa Leslie and other previous U.S. Olympic gold medal and World Cup winners were able to generate.

A cereal box is a nice start, and Duggan and several teammates have endorsement deals with Dunkin’ Donuts with more opportunities on the horizon.

”Some of us that are out of college can capitalize on the opportunities,” Monique Lamoureux-Morando said. ”Hopefully exposure for one of us is exposure for all of us and it helps grow the game. If someone gets an amazing opportunity that a lot of people are a part of and get to see, then it benefits all of us.”

Agent Brant Feldman, who represents Duggan and the Lamoureux twins, is trying to get his clients mainstream attention beyond hockey. The U.S. gold medalists are very well-known around hockey, taking photos with Navy Midshipmen and youth players and drawing chants of ”U-S-A! U-S-A!” from tailgating fans in the parking lot Saturday before the NHL Stadium Series game.

U.S. players earned headlines in a non-Olympic year when they threatened to boycott the world championships on home ice and came to an agreement on a better contract with USA Hockey. The deal allows players to make up to $129,000 in Olympic years when combined with contributions from the U.S. Olympic Committee – the kind of living wage previous generations of players couldn’t earn.

”It’s a great step for our sport,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. ”That’s going to help support our team. … Sponsorships, if those come, that’s great and that’s supplemental income, but what we were able to create with USA Hockey is the biggest step.”

The next step for players could include speaking engagements along some more endorsement deals. But they hope for a bigger change: one professional women’s league in North America instead of the competing Canadian Women’s Hockey League and National Women’s Hockey League.

”They currently don’t work together,” Lamoureux-Morando said. ”It’s two completely different entities. So I think moving forward, there needs to be some sort of collaboration, whether they merge or start working together. There needs to move forward in that direction.”

It appears that’s a cause that players want to use their platform to promote. They’d also like to spur further growth of women’s hockey across the U.S. like Ulion and the 1998 team did.

”That team, those girls, lit the fire in my heart to want to compete for my country and to want to play on this team,” Duggan said. ”Fast-forward 20 years to have the opportunity to really inspire the next generation or to have little girls see that photo or see that Kellogg’s cereal box or see what our team did and want to dream big, it fills my heart. It’s why I am who I am and why I’m here today is because of those girls, and we definitely want to have that impact on the next generation.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

NHL, NHLPA agree on protocols to resume season

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The NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed Sunday on protocols to resume the season, a major step toward the return of hockey this summer.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press there was an agreement on protocols for training camps and games and the sides are still negotiating an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which is crucial to the process.

A person with knowledge of the situation said the return-to-play protocols would only go into effect if each side votes to approve the full package of the CBA extension and return-to-play agreement. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because CBA talks are still ongoing.

To complete a return, two-thirds of the league’s board of governors and majorities of the players’ executive committee and full membership must vote in favor.

If everything is ratified, it will end a pandemic-forced shutdown that began in mid-March. Games would resume in late July or early August with 24 teams taking part in an expanded playoffs, finishing with the Stanley Cup being awarded in October.

The agreement was first reported by TSN.

The 47 pages of protocols outline the health and safety measures the league and players agreed to after several weeks of negotiations. Any player has until 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday to notify his team if he’s choosing to opt out of participating in training camp and games.

For those playing, each team is limited to 30 skaters and an unlimited amount of goaltenders for camp and total roster of up to 31 players for games. Each team is limited to 52 personnel in its game city, a group that must include two trainers, a doctor and compliance officer in addition players, coaches and management.

They are expected to be quarantined from the general public during play at least for the qualifying and first two traditional playoff rounds. Family members will be permitted to join when play is moved to one city for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.

All team and league employees plus hotel, restaurant and arena staff coming in contact with players will be tested daily in the two ”hub” cities.

One player’s positive coronavirus test result is not expected to shut down play entirely. The league has said it would isolate any player or staff member who tests positive, acknowledging an outbreak would threaten the remainder of the season.

”The players will be pretty well-protected from being exposed,” Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said during a conference call in June. ”It’s going to be a completely different way for you all and us watching hockey and being around a team because players will be really well protected throughout the process.”

The protocols include a provision for Commissioner Gary Bettman in consultation with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr to postpone, delay or cancel games in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Assuming the protocols are approved, teams are expected to open training camps July 13 before traveling to the two hub cities for games. Players have been able to skate and train off-ice in voluntary, small-group workouts since June 8 – nearly three months after hockey was halted March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.

Returning for the playoffs is seen as a stirring victory for the NHL, which like other top leagues faced the prospect of losing millions more without the television revenue tied to the postseason. There were deep concerns about canceling the rest of the season and word of positive tests didn’t help: 26 players since June 8, in addition to almost a dozen before that.

Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk called the positive test results ”eye-opening” but expected. A few players expressed concerns in recent weeks about the uncertainty surrounding a return.

”We have obviously a unique situation right now,” Montreal goaltender Carey Price said. ”The NHL and the NHLPA are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. Moving forward I’d like to play, but we have a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of scenarios that need to be covered.”

If the protocols and an CBA extension cover those scenarios for enough owners and players, there will be a path forward to hand out the Stanley Cup. Only twice since 1893 has the Cup not been awarded: in 1919, when the final couldn’t be completed because of the Spanish flu pandemic, and 2005 when the season was wiped out by a lockout.

Seven hockey players suspended in Belarus match-fixing case

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ZURICH — Seven ice hockey players have been suspended during an investigation into match-fixing in the Belarus league.

The players — five from Belarus and two from Russia — told a domestic investigation they were paid to help arrange the outcome of a game in November, the International Ice Hockey Federation said on Friday.

“During the investigation, each of the players also admitted that they had agreed to exert an unlawful influence on the outcome of the game in exchange for illegal remuneration,” the governing body said in a statement.

The IIHF said its disciplinary board had taken over the case “for further review and sanctioning.”

The case involves Dynamo Molodechno’ losing to Mogilyov 6-5 in a Belarus Extraliga game.

The players have been suspended from taking part in any competition organized by the IIHF or its member federations.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL vs. viruses; Flat salary cap pain = Avs’ gain?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Lafreniere, COVID-19 hockey concerns, and how Avs may benefit from a flat salary cap

• Rank Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen among those expressing some misgivings about playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [TSN]

• Breaking: Alexis Lafreniere is not a defenseman. In all seriousness, a look at some Maple Leafs possibilities … which might be complicated at No. 1 because of that positional point. Maybe? [Pension Plan Puppets]

• Speaking of those Maple Leafs, Buds fans are not pleased about the idea of a possible flat, $81.5M salary cap. There are teams who might take advantage of this situation, though. Here’s why the Avalanche could be one of those teams. [Mile High Hockey]

• A look back at the NHL’s “rivalries” with viruses. Does the history of the NHL’s dealing with such issues — even the Mumps — be a cause for concern amid COVID-19 outbreaks? [Arctic Ice Hockey]

• Earlier this week, PHT selected the best landing spots for Alexis Lafreniere. What about getting even more specific? Andrew Berkshire shared his picks for some of the lines that would benefit most from adding the consensus No. 1 pick to their left side. [Sportsnet]

Other hockey links

• Sean Gentille put together an oral history for the Jean Claude Van Damme masterpiece “Sudden Death.” If you haven’t heard of the candidate for “so-bad-it’s-good” designation, how about the elevator pitch: “Die Hard at a hockey game.” [The Athletic (sub required)]

• On face value, this article focuses most on Rudy Gobert and Novak Djokovic and athletes feeling invulnerable to COVID-19. But it’s a really good read for hockey fans, players, and executives as cautionary tales with a return-to-play picking up steam. [The Score]

• Joe Pelletier of Greatest Hockey Legends wonders why the bar is set so high for goalies to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Not an awful point when you consider that they play the most important position in the sport, and all. I wouldn’t mind Ron Hextall making a future cut, to name just one worthy goalie. [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• Five crossovers between hockey and Todd McFarlane. Yes, the “Spawn” guy. [PuckJunk]

• Taking a run at putting together the Sabres’ roster during the upcoming offseason. It gets elaborate, including potential trades. Yes, this scenario includes trading away Rasmus Ristolainen. Don’t they all? [Die by the Blade]

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Our Line Starts podcast: NHL, NHLPA nearing agreement; hub cities, Olympics, CBA

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Liam McHugh, Keith Jones, and Patrick Sharp react to the reports that the NHL and NHLPA are nearing the completion of a massive agreement that would not only cover this year’s Return to Play protocols, but also serve as an extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The guys discuss Edmonton and Toronto emerging as hub city favorites, as well as what it would mean for the NHL to return to the Olympics. Plus, a breakdown of the Qualifying Round series in both conferences.

Start-4:45 Edmonton, Toronto new hub city frontrunners
4:45-8:45 NHL, NHLPA nearing CBA extension, including Olympic participation
8:45-13:00 Other return to play details
14:00-23:00 Eastern Conference Qualifying Round preview
23:50-End Western Conference Qualifying Round preview

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports