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NHL targets early June to enter Phase 2 of its return to play plan

NHL targets early June to enter Phase 2 of its return to play plan

A specific date has not been decided on yet, nor has a timeline of how long Phase 2 will last

The NHL and NHL Players Association announced on Monday that the league is targeting moving onto Phase 2 of its return to play plan in early June. The league also revealed the safety protocols for when Phase 2 begins.

Those safety protocols include:

  • A maximum of six players are allowed to participate in on-ice workouts at a time
  • No coaches or team personnel are allowed on the ice
  • Players must wear face masks when entering and leaving the team facility
  • Social distancing will be enforced when players aren't on the ice
  • Player participation in Phase 2 is voluntary and teams aren't allowed to require players to return to their team's home city

The NHL noted that while the plan is to enter Phase 2 in early June, a specific date has not been decided on yet, nor has a timeline of how long Phase 2 will last.

"However, it has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last," the NHL said in the memo. "We are continuing to monitor developments in each of the Club's markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate, following discussion with all relevant parties."

Even when the dates are agreed upon, the issue of players potentially being separated from their families for several weeks at a time is another hurdle that the NHL and NHLPA will have to clear.

"No one wants to be away from their family for months on end, and everyone is aware of that with who's on this committee," Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk told the AP.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask agreed and said, "It doesn't feel right to take guys away from their families for many, many months at a time."

This is the latest step in the league's return to play plan. On Friday, the NHL Players' Association's executive board approved the league's 24-team, conferenced-based playoff format.

"The executive board of the NHLPA has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup," the NHLPA said in a statement Friday night. "Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play."

In this particular format, the top four seeds (determined by points percentage) in the East would be the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. The top four teams in the West would be the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars.

According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, those eight teams would receive byes through a play-in tournament, but would take part in a three-game tournament in order to stay fresh. The remainder of the postseason would be "bracketed."

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