NHL Announces Date for Phase 3 of Return to Play

The pro sports world in North America, at least in the world of team sports, has been on pause since mid-March thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the plus side, the NBA and the NHL have worked out plans to return to play later this summer. The NBA is slated to kick off the restart of their regular season on July 31 before heading to the postseason. Meanwhile, the NHL has approved their format to return to play later this summer and opened their team facilities to small groups of players earlier this week in the implementation of Phase 2 of their return to play scenario. Further details about the league’s return were announced on Thursday morning.

The NHL, via a press release, made the announcement that, if conditions allow, that they would enter Phase 3 of their return to play plan on Friday, July 10. That would allow teams to undergo full-blown training camp and an opportunity to ramp up for the actual postseason as a unit as opposed to individual or small group workouts. At this point in time, it is unclear how long Phase 3 would last and therefore, a potential Phase 4 start date has yet to be officially released. In the league’s press release, the NHL stated the following:

"The National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) announced today that formal training camps (Phase 3) for the 24 teams resuming play will open on Friday, July 10, provided that medical and safety conditions allow and the parties have reached an overall agreement on resuming play. The length of training camp and, therefore, the start date for formal resumption of play (Phase 4) will be determined at a future date."

As it stands, the league is still working on narrowing down their selections on the two hub cities to host the respective conference playoffs. The premise is that the league is going to test their players for COVID-19 on a daily basis in an effort to try and avoid any potential flare-up of the coronavirus. There are some teams, like the Oilers, Flames and Canucks, who are dealing with some pretty strict regulations about social distancing in Western Canada, who may end up relocating to have training camp somewhere in the United States. Players that cross the U.S./Canadian border would be subject to a two-week quarantine period.

The current expectation is that the league will eventually expand the number of people allowed to take part in workouts in Phase 2 to get more up to speed before kicking off Phase 3. As Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares had to say: "It only makes sense that eventually the groups are going to expand here in Phase 2. To go from only seeing six guys and three or four staff members to possibly seeing 40 people at training camp doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, in the progression way of things."

The league is making positive strides towards getting back on the ice in order to ensure that a champion is crowned this season. While there are things that have proven to be unpopular in the decisions that have been handed down during this negotiation, the fact remains that, for once, Gary Bettman is taking steps in a positive direction in order to keep the league intact and moving forward. That alone is going to help drive the league’s interest level up, especially with the problems that major league baseball has dealt with so far. It’s another milestone for the league in their return and something for fans to look toward.

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Chris King

Chris King has been immersed in the world of professional and collegiate sports for more than three decades. Whether it's playing pickup games or being involved in organized sports to being a fan, he's checked all the boxes. From the NFL to arena football, the NHL to the KHL, the NBA to the WNBA to college hoops, and even MLB to the KBO. If it's out there, he's covered it and bet on it as well, as Chris has been an expert bettor in his career. Before joining Winners and Whiners back in 2015, his work appeared around the internet and in print. He's written books for Ruckus Books about college basketball, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, golf, and the World Cup. If you're looking for the inside track on hitting a winner, do yourself a favor and read what Chris has to say.