Monday, July 6 the NHL released their proposed framework for the rules and procedures that will cover Phase 3 (Training Camp) and Phase 4 (Game Play). These rules, and the Memo of Understanding to extend the CBA will be voted on by the players and the owners in the coming days.
Phase 2 is still in effect, and the latest testing figures from the NHL indicate that approximately half of the players have arrived at one of the 24 team sites for Phase 2 training. For details on the protocols for Phase 2, go here:
For details on the format of the playoffs including the structure of each series, go here:
To read the official Phase 3 and 4 documentation, go here:
NHL, NHLPA Update on Phased Return to Sport Protocol
Voting Procedure and Timing
These protocols will be voted on by the Board of Governors (the owners) and by the NHLPA Executive Board (31 team representatives), and then if they say yes, by the full player membership. This will take most of the rest of this week to accomplish, but for now, the documentation assumes a July 13 start date for Phase 3, a July 26 move to the hub cities and an August 1 resumption of play.
While it’s widely understood that Edmonton and Toronto are going to be the hub cities, the protocols do not mention them by name.
Phase 2 is a voluntary program of pre-training-camp workouts. Direct coaching of the players is not permitted, and players can only work in small groups. During Phase 2 all players and people with close contact with the players at each team site are tested for COVID-19 when they first arrive and then twice a week. The NHL is reporting on positive tests on a weekly basis.
Phase 2 includes a complex set of rules and procedures around hygiene, cleaning, use of the facilities and what kind of snacks players can have access to. Those rules remain in force for Phase 3. The major changes are to the on-ice activities allowed and an increase in the people who are allowed to have access to the players.
Players were allowed to work out at some other team’s facility for Phase 2, but will need to return to their home city for Phase 3.
Phase 3 is meant to be exactly like preseason training camp. On-ice sessions are run by the coaching staff, and the players will work in a full-team groups.
There will be 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goaltenders allowed. Only players eligible to play in the playoffs are allowed to take part.
All players are free to opt out without penalty, and they can do that by letter within 72 hours of the completion of the ratification of this agreement.
Any player whose contract ends this season and isn't participating because his team is out or he has opted out, can sign outside of North America 7 days after agreement begins. But, if a player who opted out signs somewhere else for 2020-21, can't play in the NHL next year.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 7, 2020
Of note regarding NHL players who compete in the restart this summer: Under the terms of today's MOU, they will be permitted to sign deals outside of North America two days after their team is eliminated.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 7, 2020
Many European leagues intend to start up as usual in the fall.
Hockey operations personnel who are allowed to have close contact with the players include the usual array of coaching, training and medical staff. Staff on the business side who use the same building will not be allowed to have contact with the players.
Media is allowed on site if the facilities allow the team to set up entry to the building and viewing of the practices that keep the media from direct contact with the players, and allow them to safely physically distance from each other. They are never allowed direct interviews with players other than by email or video call.
No family, no agents, no other people are allowed.
These protocols use the term quarantine interchangeably with self-isolation. No one is ever in a regulated or controlled quarantine, just self-regulated.
Players arriving for Phase 3 who either weren’t at Phase 2, or were in some other location for that training:
[M]ay be required to serve a 14-day self-quarantine imposed by the local or federal health authorities, regardless of their mode of travel (private or charter travel). Even if not imposed by the local health authorities, such individuals returning to the Club’s home city by public transportation, including commercial air or rail travel, will normally be required to serve a 14-day self-quarantine period post-travel before engaging in training activities at their Club’s facility. In addition, Club Medical personnel may impose a 14-day quarantine on Players and Permitted Personnel returning to the Club’s home city from a “high-risk environment”, even if they are not travelling via public transportation. Guidelines for the designation of high - risk environments have been provided to Clubs by the NHL in consultation with the NHLPA
These are the same rules as for Phase 2 arrivals. However:
Moreover, certain jurisdictions have given their permission for Players to serve a shortened quarantine period when substantial testing for COVID-19 is performed and/or in a manner that permits Players to attend at the Club facility under restricted conditions during the quarantine itself. We recommend that Clubs communicate with their local health authorities to discuss if accommodations of this nature are acceptable.
No further details are given on which jurisdictions those are.
All players and the club personnel who have access to players have to have a laboratory-based RT-PCR test 48 hours before they arrive.
Testing is then every two days, and tests are expected to be processed within 24 hours. If the test is not processed in that time frame, the player has to stay away until it is.
Players are required to report symptoms of COVID-19, and close contact with anyone with symptoms. Anyone who tests positive and/or has symptoms must leave the facility and self-isolate.
If an asymptomatic person tests positive, a second test is conducted by an independent health care provider, and the person stays isolated until that test is processed.
If the second test is positive, they stay in isolation until medically cleared. If it is negative, the person stays in isolatation and a third test is given 24 hours later. If that third test in negative, and the team doctor okays their return, they go back to training.
If a symptomatic person tests positive or a person gets symptoms after a positive test, they will not be tested again, and they will be assumed to be positive.
Medical Clearance after Positive Tests
A person whose initial test has been confirmed positive shall remain in isolation until the following conditions have been satisfied:
a) For a person who was asymptomatic during the entire period of their isolation:
• The person has tested negative after the administration of a RT-PCR test from at least two consecutive, respiratory specimens, nasopharyngeal where feasible, collected ≥24 hours apart for a total of two negative specimens (the “CDC Test-Based Strategy”); or
• Alternatively, upon the passage of 10 days since the first positive test, providing the person has remained asymptomatic during the entire period of their self-isolation,
b) For a person who was symptomatic at the time of testing, or who developed symptoms during the period of isolation:
• The person has tested negative twice on the basis of the CDC Test-Based Strategy after the resolution of any fever (without use of fever-reducing medications) and has experienced improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); or
• Alternatively, if the person has had no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and no respiratory symptoms for over 72 hours provided, however, that the person has been in selfisolation for a minimum of 10 days since the onset of the symptoms,
c) In addition, the Club Physician, its infectious disease expert, and any treating physician providing care to the person conclude that the person no longer presents a risk of infection to others, and that it is medically appropriate (given individual and local circumstances) to terminate the requirement for selfisolation, and
d) Finally, the termination of the isolation requirement must be consistent with applicable local public health regulations or other requirements.
Essentially, once a player tests positive and has no symptoms or has two negative tests they can be medically cleared. This is not automatic, and requires the doctor’s okay and they must refrain from exercise for 14 days from the time of the first test and undergo cardiac screening.
However, there is one exception to this process, and that is for asymptomatic people. The can be medically cleared after 10 days without every having a negative test. In addition, anyone who has had a confirmed positive test will not be tested again as part of the regular scheduled Phase 3 testing.
[O]ngoing screening with PCR testing is unnecessary, as PCR-based testing results may remain positive for a prolonged period of time after resolution of symptoms, with unknown significance. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if such Player subsequently exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 or has been exposed to potential infection through close contact with an infected person, his COVID-19 status shall be determined on the basis of a clinical assessment by the Club medical staff and the infectious disease expert, which assessment may, in their discretion, include PCR testing as one element. In the event that subsequent data are published demonstrating value in different testing modalities (e.g., antigen or antibody), the above strategy may be altered.
This explains the need for some way other than a negative test to clear asymptomatic people.
Since Phase 3 will only last approximately 13 days, with one or two days for travel for all but two teams, any confirmed positive test after the first few days of training camp will keep a player from travelling to the hub with the rest of the team. But confirmed positive tests on arrival to Phase 3 could, in some cases, not get in the way of the player travelling as scheduled.
There is a contact tracing procedure for all confirmed positive tests as well.
Travel to Phase 4
Each team is allowed a travelling party of 52 people that includes 31 players (including goalies) and all the permitted coaches, trainers and staff. The list of each team’s party is to be submitted by July 13. If that date is not adjusted, then no team is using this training camp to make roster decisions.
Quarantine on Arrival
Players arriving at the hub city by team charter don’t have to quarantine, however players arriving by commercial airlines do have to spend four days in the hotel room and return four negative tests.
Players who live in the hub city have special rules that require them to spend the 14 days prior to the move into the hub zone (a defined area including the hotel and some outdoor locations) using masks, physical distancing and for the seven days prior are required to stay home as much as possible.
These players have to be tested three times, 48 hrs apart before they can move into the hub. This will happen automatically if they are at Phase 3 training camp.
Life in the Hub
Everyone in the hub will be assigned to a group.
Group 1 is the players, team personell, on-ice officials and some hotel and NHL staff. This group is all the people who are allowed to have access to the players. Group 2 is NHL and hotel staff and officials who have no access to the players but are on-site. Both of these groups will live in the hotel.
Groups 3 and 4 are security and cleaning staff, food servers and arena staff and ice crew. These people either live at home or at a separate hotel.
All of these four groups of people are tested daily in the hub.
Players are not allowed to leave the hub zone without a few exceptions (birth of a child, family emergency). There is real punishment for both teams and players who break these rules or leave the hub without permission. No players or teams have ever been subject to rules with punishment of this sort for behaviour.
Players returning after leaving with permission have to return four negative tests while they self-isolate before they’re allowed back to their regular duties.
The Phase 4 protocol is an extensive document outlining cleaning rules, distancing guidelines for all aspects of living in a hotel, including some requirements that NHL players will be picking up their own dirty dishes and returning them to a bin.
Players will be allowed to use hotel bars and restaurants, but they will be subject to distancing and other safety rules. Other recreational sites will be provided as well.
No one not in the four groups of people outlined above is allowed in the hub until some family members will be permitted to go through a process to be admitted later on in the playoffs.
Some media will be allowed to watch games in person, but there will be no direct contact with players. They are not allowed to enter the hub hotels or any of the restaurants or recreation areas inside the hub zone.
Testing in Phase 4
The Phase 4 testing and contact tracing process is identical to Phase 3, with the only change the frequency of tests.
This means the same 10-day process to return to action if an asymptomatic person has a confirmed positive test is available in Phase 4.
All players must be medically cleared by team doctors, the return is not automatic.
The NHL intends to never reveal the identity of anyone who tests positive at any stage of Phase 3 or 4. They will simply not explain some absences from practices or games.
What if it all goes wrong?
This is the big question everyone has. What is the criteria for calling it off? There have been assumptions made that positive tests would result in immediate 14-day shut down of play. This is not the case. Close contact with a person who has been confirmed to be positive does not result in a long automatic isolation, but instead, puts that person on the testing and confirmation test process and their contacts will be traced if they are a confirmed positive.
There is a long section on the process for delay or cancellation of games in Phase 4, or delay or relocation of Phase 3, and it boils down to the league will decide if either they or the NHLPA believes conditions are unfair or unsafe. There is no clear criteria for what constitutes “material risk to Player health and safety” beyond “which conditions may include an uncontrolled outbreak of COVID-19 in the Players of one or more Clubs”.
The door is open to move training camp for some teams, but it is a top-level NHL decision and the NHL has shown no interest in taking that decision so far. The door is also open to call this process off or to delay it at any time.
If the voting process results in ratification of this deal and the CBA extension, expect some players to opt out of playing. The hub cities will be formally announced and the maps of the hub zones will be provided to teams. Some hub-specific rules will likely be made for use of facilities and safety.
Rosters for Phase 3 should be announced almost immediately after the ratification vote.
There is the possibility that the July 13 date will be changed if it becomes impossible to meet, but only by a few days.
The target date is the first week of October to hand out the Stanley Cup, with a mass of hockey played in the first two weeks of August to get this started.
The second draft lottery will be sometime in mid-August, and the actual draft will be sometime in October.