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Report: NHL and NHLPA reach tentative agreement for return to play protocols

One step closer to chaos

2020 NHL Draft Lottery Photo by Bruce Bennett/NHLI via Getty Images

With the original date for the beginning of Phase 3 in the NHL’s Return-to-Play plan less than a week away, Bob McKenzie, Elliotte Friedman and others are reporting that the league and the NHLPA have finalized a tentative agreement for protocols on Phase 3 and Phase 4. However, this agreement has to be ratified by the NHLPA executive committee and it won’t be ratified until the CBA MOU (Memo of Understanding) is complete.

Per McKenzie, Friedman, and others, the Phase 3 and 4 protocols are outlined in a 40-page document. Teams can carry up to 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies in Phase 3 and 4. The protocols also outline restrictions that players must abide by upon returning for Phase 3, but any player may opt-out without penalty of any kind so long as he notifies his club, in writing, before 5 p.m. ET on July 7 (time and date subject to change). Players will be tested every-other-day and will wear face coverings in team facilities during Phase 3.

Players also will not be allowed to work out or skate any public facility during Phase 3.

A few interesting details of the agreement have begun to emerge. Coaches will not be required to wear face coverings when behind the bench in Phase 4. Also, players who leave during Phase 4 without permission “may be subject to consequences up to and including removal” and their teams could face harsh penalties.

Friedman is also reporting that both the NHL and NHLPA may move to delay or cancel Phase 3 if they believe “... conditions in which the commencement or continuation of Phase 3 would likely create a material risk to player health and safety and/or jeopardize the integrity of the competition anticipated in Phase 4, are imminent or may have emerged, which conditions may include an uncontrolled outbreak of COVID-19 in the Players of one or more Clubs participating in Phase 4 ...” If either party raises such concerns, both parties will jointly consult with the NHL Chief Medical Officer, the NHLPA Medical Consultant, participating players, general managers, and “such infectious diseases experts as they may consider advisable”.

After that period of consultation, the decision appears to rest in the hands of commissioner Gary Bettman or any individual he appoints to make that decision (after consultation with the NHLPA Executive Director).

Details of this tentative agreement are still emerging — again, this is a 40-page document. We will keep you posted on any major developments in this ongoing story.