May 25, 2020 | 12:14pm | Updated May 25, 2020 | 12:15pm
Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders
The NHL has formulated plans to open club training facilities for small-group on-ice and off-ice workouts as soon as next week in what the league is calling Phase 2 of its response to COVID-19.
The league has steadfastly avoided putting a timetable on a potential summer return, but if all goes well in negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA and governing health bodies allow, training camps (Phase 3) could begin by late June. That would put the league in position to start its 24-team tournament (Phase 4) the second or third week of July with the crowning of a Stanley Cup champion in mid to late September.
Under these protocols distributed to players by the NHLPA on Monday before the 22-page memo’s official release by the league, no more than six players at a time will be permitted in a club facility. Coaches would be permitted to observe, but not join, on-ice activity.
Teams are responsible for arranging testing through their club health care providers. Players and staff members will be given a nasal swab test two days before commencing training and then will be re-tested twice a week thereafter. Tests are expected to yield results within 24 hours.
Players and staff are also expected to take their own temperature and check for symptoms on a daily basis. As well, temperature and symptom checks must be performed daily at the entrance to the club facility. Players and staff members who test positive or develop symptoms will be segregated from the group and referred for further medical observation under self-isolation.
The league states that “[the] over-riding principle [of] testing of asymptomatic Players and Club personnel [is that it] must be done in the context of excess testing capacity, so as to not deprive health care workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals from necessary diagnostic tests (‘Publicly Necessary Testing’).”
Players returning to their teams’ respective home cities by public transportation — including commercial air travel — must self-quarantine for 14 days before joining the Phase 2 small group workouts. Those deemed to be returning from “high-risk” environments may be required to self-quarantine for 14 days even if not traveling via public transportation.
All personnel are expected to maintain social distancing, with players and staff members required to wear cloth masks (except when working out on or off the ice) if not possible to maintain six-foot spacing between parties. All personnel are required to wear masks when entering and exiting the arena.
These small-group workouts are voluntary. Teams cannot compel players to return to their respective home cities. NHL facilities will be open to all players in the area, including those on other clubs, for Phase 2.
The NHL and NHLPA are expected to resume negotiations Tuesday on an agreement covering all outstanding issues relating to a summer return to the ice. The parties have agreed on the general framework of a 24-team Stanley Cup playoff tournament.