The NHL is hoping to let teams and players return to local training facilities in late May. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent out a memo to all its players and teams stating, “We are hoping for some point in the latter half of May. Remains to be seen.” Reopening training facilities depends on if local restrictions will allow it to happen amidst this coronavirus pandemic.
The current proposed plan is for several teams to play in four NHL arenas playing multiple games per day. Teams that aren’t playing on that day would practice in an area that is controlling the virus to prevent more spreading of the coronavirus to other players. Also, the NHL Players’ Association wants to have three weeks of training camp for players before the start of a potential return to the season. The NHL is currently planning on what they call Phase 2 of the transition period.
Although the NHL aspires to finish off the 2019-20 season, there are several issues that present itself before the NHL can even play one game. The big issue is the different restrictions and regulations in each state. This could cause fairness issues for many teams. While some states are starting to loosen their stay at home restrictions, other states haven’t reached phase 1 of the government’s guidelines of reopening. Another issue is travel restrictions since the U.S. – Canadien border is still closed. There’s no specific date of when that border would reopen at the moment.
THE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
One plan the NHL has discussed is to put restrictions on players returning to the ice. According to a source on the players’ side, “No one would be allowed to skate in any of the facilities, and if any teams allow players on the ice, they would be subject to a fine.” This is due to some teams having a competitive advantage over some other teams. “There are certain facilities that would not be able to open due to local stay at home orders, and that would give certain teams an unfair competitive advantage,” the source on the players’ side says. Another solution is to limit the size of groups in practice sessions. Groups of six at a time were under consideration.
Daly says that the NHL is “still debating the equitable access to team facilities point”, but no decisions have been made.
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