Welcome to Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return to Play plan.
Beginning Monday, NHL team rinks and facilities can reopen for players to use in small on- and off-ice groups. All teams must follow the Phase 2 protocols released by the NHL and NHLPA last month, which includes players wearing face coverings while inside, except when on the ice or working out. Players can skate in groups of up to six at a time and there are instructions on testing and temperature checks.
“Our strong hope is that most, if not all, of the 24 teams coming back to play will have the ability to test their players prior to engaging in Phase 2. And our Phase 2 protocol, I think, specifically specifies testing at least twice weekly and perhaps more,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly last week.
Not every team still able to play will have their facilities open this week. While players from the Penguins, Golden Knights, Coyotes, Maple Leafs, Islanders, Flyers, and Oilers are expected to return others, like the Canucks, Blues, Capitals, Hurricanes and Canadiens, will not be on the ice.
There are a few reasons why. In Vancouver, for example, Rogers Arena is remaining closed until there is a demand for ice. According to Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre, only four players have remained in the city during the shutdown. Many Canucks are outside of Canada and with the mandatory 14-day quarantine required upon arriving, it’s likely they won’t all return until the issue is worked out between the government and the NHL.
It’s a similar situation in Montreal where only two players are currently in the city. There is no ice down at the Canadiens’ practice facility, but that could be taken care of later this week, according to the Montreal Gazette.
St. Louis has a few more players around, according to the Post-Dispatch, and as soon as Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is notified, their practice facility will open.
“I have talked with the players and they will tell us when they think we should open,” he said. ‘If they feel comfortable training as they are (currently), they should. When they want us to open, we will.”
These workouts, remember, are voluntary. Players don’t have to return to their teams right now, so expect to see players from different teams getting together to train if they all live in the same area.
If all goes well, Phase 3, the opening of full training camps, would not open before July 10. Phase 4 would be the puck dropping on the 24-team plan with an eye on awarding the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season.
MORE NHL RETURN TO PLAY:
• League clears up 2020 NHL Playoffs picture
• A look at the Eastern Conference matchups
• Final standings for 2019-20 NHL season, NHL draft odds
• A look at the Western Conference matchups