Donald Fehr

Hockey is back: NHL, NHLPA ratify CBA, return to play agreement

Leave a comment

The NHL and NHLPA made the return official: hockey is back.

Remarkably, the NHL and NHLPA also extended the Collective Bargaining Agreement through at least 2025-26, ensuring almost unthinkable labor peace for fans. None of this means that COVID-19 won’t wreck the party, but the NHL and NHLPA cemented those return details on Friday.

The timetable for the NHL return won’t leave much room to breathe. Players can opt-out of a return-to-play plan for a variety of reasons, but must make such decisions by Monday, July 13 at 5 p.m. ET.

This comes shortly after the two sides announced a memorandum of understanding earlier this week. The NHL attempting a two-city, 24-team playoff plan is bold enough; extending the CBA through at least 2025-26 makes this an incredible achievement. For hockey fans who’ve grown accustomed to lockouts, lasting labor peace feels almost unthinkable.

If hockey fans need more reasons to be ecstatic, consider this. The CBA extension sets the stage for NHL players to participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics. That decision hinges on an agreement between the league and the International Olympic Committee, but this is a landmark day for the future of the NHL.

[Full schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers]

Read more about the NHL return via this official document:

NHL playoff hubs in Edmonton and Toronto; 2020 Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton

After many twists and turns, Edmonton and Toronto were named as the two hub cities. Each city will host 12 teams (limited to 52 personnel apiece). Edmonton will hold the 12 Western Conference teams, and is also the planned spot for the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Meanwhile, the 12 Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto.

With COVID-19 spikes in areas like Las Vegas and protocol stumbles in Vancouver, it’s been difficult to forecast which cities would serve as the two hubs. Now we know. Edmonton, in particular, has avoided the worst of COVID-19 outbreaks. Toronto’s dealt with more struggles (see: the outbreaks in Ontario in the map below), but brings some strengths for the NHL while not being hit as hard as many problem areas in the U.S.:

Alberta with 8,482 cases; Ontario with 36,178 as of Thursday (via the Canadian government)

[More on Edmonton and Toronto serving as NHL playoff hubs.]

Now, for the when: Key Dates for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, NHL Free Agency, Draft

So, we just covered the “where” for the NHL’s playoff return to award a 2020 Stanley Cup. Let’s cover the “when.”

July 13: Training camps open (Phase 3) and 5 p.m. ET deadline for players to opt out
July 26: Teams report to their hub city
July 28-30: Exhibition games
Aug 1: Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin (Phase 4)
Aug 10: Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery to determine No. 1 overall pick
Aug 11: First Round begins
Aug 25: Second Round begins
Sept. 8: Conference Finals begin
Sept. 22: Stanley Cup Final begins
Oct 4: Last possible date for Stanley Cup to be awarded
Oct. 9-10: 2020 NHL Draft (must follow end of Cup Final and take place before free agency)
Mid-Oct.: free agent period opens
Nov. 17: Training camps open for 2020-21 season
Dec. 1: 2020-21 NHL season begins

All of dates listed are, of course, tentative.

[Want even more details on critical dates for the NHL return? Click here.]

CBA extension keeps NHL salary cap flat for at least 2020-21

NHL, NHLPA hammer out a CBA extension, including flat salary cap and return to Olympics

Again, these agreements don’t just cover a playoff format where the 2020 Stanley Cup would be awarded. The CBA extension means lockout prevention through 2025-26, and possibly even 2026-27. That CBA extension sets the stage for the NHL’s return to the Olympics, pending an agreement with the IOC.

Consider some of the high points. You can read more about the flat cap and other financial details here.

  • It’s possible that the two sides could extend the CBA for one additional season (through 2026-27).
  • The two sides agreed to a flat $81.5 million salary cap for 2020-21.
  • That $81.5 million mark could also stick for multiple seasons. It all hinges on whether or not revenue bounces back — and when.
  • Players hate escrow, so limiting its impact was key. There will be a 20-percent cap on escrow for 2020-21. From there, escrow will scale down until it drops to six percent.
  • The two sides agreed to bring NHL players back to Olympic competition — pending negotiations with the International Olympic Committee. If that goes through, NHL players would participate in 2022 Winter Olympics (in Beijing) and the 2026 Winter Olympics (in Milan).
  • Players will defer salary to account for the financial impact of COVID-19.
  • The CBA extension accounts for certain salary cap loopholes. In short, contracts won’t be as front-loaded, salary bonuses won’t be greatly changed, and no-trade clauses will be honored more faithfully.

So, again fans: rejoice, and hold your breath. Maybe cross your fingers, too — especially in hopes that this process happens as safely as possible. This is huge stuff, and PHT will cover the developments as they unfold.

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.

NHL: 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began (June 8)

NHL announces 26 players tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began
Getty Images

The NHL announced that 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the Phase 2 process began on June 8.

To be more specific, the NHL split up the positive COVID-19 test results this way:

  • 15 players involved in Phase 2 (skating in small groups at team facilities) tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL notes that at least 250 players reported to team facilities during Phase 2. During that process, the league administered at least 1,450 COVID-19 tests on those players.
  • Of course, there are also players who haven’t reported to team facilities. The NHL revealed that it is aware of 11 additional players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 since June 8, the beginning of Phase 2. Note that players outside of Phase 2 aren’t subjected to the same level of oversight as those voluntarily reporting to teams.

The NHL added that all players who tested positive have self-isolated and are following CDC/Health Canada protocols.

Here’s the full NHL release on 26 players testing positive for COVID-19:

 

On June 19, the Lightning shut down their team facilities after three players and multiple staff members tested positive for COVID-19. That only represented a brief pause, though, as the Lightning jumped back into Phase 2 on June 24. Around that time, Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun also reported that Auston Matthews tested positive for COVID-19. The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t confirm or deny that report.

Pondering what’s next after 26 NHL players test positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2

The Athletic’s Joe Smith recently took a look at the Lightning resuming Phase 2 (sub required). That article conveys the self-quarantine process. Yet, at the same time, Smith also captures the lack of certainty amid this pandemic.

In other NHL return-to-play news, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the league is unlikely to make hub city announcements on Monday:

Various reports indicate that the NHL hopes to transition from Phase 2 to Phase 3 (formal training camps) in mid-July. Earlier, it was indicated that the target date was July 10. That might change thanks to recent events, however. In the latest edition of “31 Thoughts,” Elliotte Friedman reported that the date could be moved by “three to five days, max.”

To get even more hopeful, the aim is for a full NHL return (Phase 4) in late July or early August. Obviously, that’s a work in progress. The NHL would need to clear hurdles to get there, especially if more players test positive for COVID-19.

Positive tests for COVID-19, hub city issues, and more NHL return stories:

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.

Report: NHLPA to vote on return to play, CBA extension, $83M salary cap

The entire membership of the NHLPA will vote on an NHL return-to-play plan, which could also include extending the CBA, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.

CBA extension could involve flat cap of $83M for “at least three seasons”

A possible CBA extension could have wide-reaching implications. Brooks reports that there could be a flat $83M salary cap for “at least” three seasons. The upside for the NHLPA is significant, though. Such a setup would also mean a cap for escrow, an unpredictable element loathed by players.

Naturally, plenty is subject to change. Brooks points out that even the $83M salary cap could be tweaked. But it would be a huge decision if a flat cap was introduced. As Brooks notes, this move would mean that the salary cap would no longer be linked to a 50-50 split in revenue.

Earlier today, Rangers star Artemi Panarin released a candid statement. Along with wishing that the Rangers could train in the MSG area, Panarin railed on escrow:

It sounds like the CBA extension proposal might soothe some of that tension? Maybe?

Entire NHLPA voting on NHL return to play plan also key

It’s pretty noteworthy, too, that the entire membership of the NHLPA might vote on a return-to-play plan.

Previously, there were rumblings that a return-to-play vote would be limited to an NHLPA executive board. An anonymous veteran player recently expressed displeasure regarding that idea to Michael Russo and James Mirtle of The Athletic (sub required).

“Guys are not happy,” The veteran player said. “This is why we better have a full player vote and not just an executive board vote. But I’m not convinced (NHLPA executive director) Don (Fehr) is going to allow that because he knows there’s so many of us on the fence. That’s why I think the league was trying to be hush-hush on these positive tests.

“In my opinion, no way we play.”

Players haven’t just expressed their concerns about COVID-19 privately, either.

That goes beyond a role player with possible risk factors such as Anton Stralman. Canadiens goalie Carey Price expressed concerns about the process on Thursday.

Some believe that it’s not necessarily a slam dunk (tap-in goal?) that a majority of players would approve a return to play. An anonymous agent noted to Russo and Mirtle that playing in the setup wouldn’t even translate to a full paycheck for some players. That’s a lot of risk for little return.

However, if the NHLPA and NHL hammered out some pretty favorable concessions for both sides in that CBA extension? Now that might be something that could make plenty of sense for the players (and league).

Of course, with just about every part of this process, a lot is subject to change. As we’ve seen, there are twists and turns in merely determining the two NHL hub cities.

If this vote comes to pass, it would create some long-term clarity during these very unclear times.

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.

Aliu, Kane form Hockey Diversity Alliance ‘to eradicate racism and intolerance’

1 Comment

A group of seven active and former NHL players announced the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA) on Monday. Akim Aliu and Evander Kane will serve as co-heads of an executive committee that also includes Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, and Joel Ward.

“Our mission is to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey,” The Hockey Diversity Alliance wrote in their press release. “We will strive to be a force of positive change not only within our game of hockey, but also within society. Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes. We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office.”

Check out the release here.

(If you want the full text of the release, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

Promising goals, and maybe even more potential in the future?

Along with mapping out a broader goal of addressing racism in hockey (and society), the Hockey Diversity Alliance also shared goals about making the sport more accessible. Considering the costs of playing hockey at most levels, this is pretty exciting. The HDIA noted that they have a “charitable fiscal sponsor” to help boost such efforts.

Speaking of broader goals, it would be delightful to see the Hockey Diversity Alliance cover many groups. And it sounds like early steps are being taken to include women:

Truly spreading the “Hockey is for Everyone” message would be tremendous. Ideally, the sport will also become more inclusive for the LGBTQ2+ community, among others.

NHL executive Kim Davis and NHLPA head Donald Fehr already ranked among those who expressed pride in NHL players speaking up about racism following George Floyd’s tragic death. Seeing Aliu, Kane, Daley, Dumba, Simmonds, Stewart, and Ward form the HDA should only further such feelings.

As promising as it is to picture how far this could go, it seems like the Hockey Diversity Alliance is already off to a promising start.

Full text of Hockey Diversity Alliance release:

Here it is, in full:

We love our sport. We believe that hockey is the greatest game in the world.

As minorities who play professional hockey, we have come together to create the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA). We have appointed Akim Aliu and Evander Kane as co-heads and our executive committee includes Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, and Joel Ward.

Our mission is to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey. We will strive to be a force of positive change not only within our game of hockey, but also within society. Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes. We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office.

We will promote diversity at all levels of the game through community outreach and engagement with you and will endeavor to make the game more affordable and accessible. We will also focus on educating the hockey community about the racism issues confronting the sport, while advocating for acceptance and equality. We have partnered with a charitable fiscal sponsor and we will be launching a charitable division in the coming weeks to assist us in achieving our objectives.

In creating our alliance, we are confident we can inspire a new generation of hockey players and fans. We are hopeful that anyone who puts on skates or sits in the stands will do so without worrying about race, gender or socioeconomic background (and) will be able to express their culture, identity, values and personality without fear of retribution.

We are united in our efforts and promise to work tirelessly to bring about the change our sport and society needs.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Kim Davis, others praise NHL players for speaking out on racism

1 Comment

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

Kim Davis, others are proud of NHL players for speaking up about race

• NHL executive Kim Davis shared some great insight to The Canadian Press on how she feels about players speaking out regarding race.

“I’ve had people comment all week that for our league to use race and Black Lives (Matter) in the same sentence is unprecedented,” Davis said.

Even so, Davis notes that saying Black Lives Matter or using the name George Floyd is a great, but taking action to help is what really matters. (The Canadian Press)

• NHLPA director Donald Fehr also praised players, as “not everybody, but a lot” of people have spoken out about issues revolving around racism. (Also via the Canadian Press)

• Count Jarome Iginla among those who are also impressed with how players have responded. (31 Thoughts Podcast)

Other NHL and hockey links

• The Devils boast a long history of developing players from outside North America. Nikita Gusev appears to be the latest to benefit. (The Hockey News)

• Could we see long-lasting changes to the NHL “calendar?” (Boston Globe)

• Yes, Jimmy Howard suffered through a rough season. And, sure, this is probably it for Howard with the Red Wings. The veteran goalie wants to prove he can still play in the NHL, though. (The Detroit News)

• Greg Wyshynski combs through a ton of characteristics [including Pekka Rinne’s glove] to put together a Frankenstein monster/Voltron of a perfect goalie. (ESPN)

Chris Tanev hopes he can work out a deal to stick with the Canucks. (Sportsnet)

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.