After the NHLPA agreed to the 24-team playoff format on Friday night, the NHL issued a 29-page memorandum to teams and players governing the NHL return to play Phase 2, late Monday morning. The next steps include opening team facilities for small group work on and off the ice.
The workouts will be strictly voluntary. Teams may not force players to return to home cities for workouts, as part of the NHL Phase 2 rules.
Nearly one-third of NHL cities are still under quarantine orders, including U.S. hotspots New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. Based on current information available, the NHL is targeting early June for the move towards Phase 2.
The NHL release issued by Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, legal counsel Julie Grand, and NHL Chief Medical Counsel Dr. Willem Meeuwisse stated:
“…it has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last. We are continuing to monitor developments in each of the Club’s markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate…”
As part of the memo, the NHL requested individual teams to contact the NHL regarding overall timing and teams’ ability to implement the move to Phase 2. The aforementioned locked down cities and others may have additional issues, though many teams have practice facilities in neighboring counties, which are often safer than the urban arena spaces.
The memo stipulates the team practice facilities be open for on and off-ice workouts to small groups of no more than six players, plus a limited number of staff.
The league will allow workouts only in areas where local authorities have opened restrictions enough to do so.
Teams are permitted to help players return to the club’s home city with a $1500 expense reimbursement maximum. AHL players will also be compensated “a reasonable amount.”
As AHL players report to the NHL facilities, we may find out the Penguins selections for the Black Aces.
Testing and safety emerged as primary concerns during the NHLPA discussions to move forward with the NHL 24-team playoff format. The PA approved the plan but the sides have been in constant communication regarding the measures and concerns. The NHL addressed testing as part of the memo but left the onus on teams while the players report to local cities. Players must be tested twice per week and if the results are not available within 24 hours, the player or staff member cannot return to the facility until the results indicate a negative test.
Asymptomatic players are not automatically excluded from testing, but local conditions and testing availability will dictate player testing and access.
Laboratory-based RT-PCR testing shall be administered to all Players and Club personnel designated to have “Player Access” … (forty-eight (48) hours prior to any person returning to Club training facilities in order to detect active or recent infection (with results to be available within twenty-four (24) hours). For individuals whose results are not received within twenty-four (24) hours, such persons shall not utilize Club training facilities until results are available and indicate a negative testing result.
To determine if this will be feasible in each Club’s local market, Clubs shall engage with your local health authorit(ies) (as well as any other applicable health authorities such as state, provincial or federal) to determine whether asymptomatic Players and other Club personnel are eligible under applicable regulations and local conditions to receive PCR tests, either publicly or privately, provided that doing so does not take testing resources away from Publicly Necessary Testing.
For players in areas in which testing is an issue, they may participate in Phase 2, but only after self-quarantining for 14 days or certifying they have already completed the 14-day quarantine.
Teams are responsible to report testing and ongoing testing to the NHL.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now has spoken to a Butler County official regarding the county’s plans and how they may interact with the UPMC Lemieux Complex. The county has begun planning “green” status and County Commissioner Kevin Boozel was appointed to Gov. Tom Wolf’s action committee to advise the governor on appropriate timeframes and guidelines to grant “green” status.
The low infection rate in Butler County will likely provide an easier path for the Pittsburgh Penguins to open their Cranberry Twp. practice facility.
However, not all NHL teams will be as lucky, especially the New York teams. The New York Islanders and New York Rangers will participate in the 24-team playoff format, but Manhattan and Nassau county have more than 50,000 active cases, combined according to Worldometers.info which has tracked infection rates around the world.
The counties reported 224 new cases on Sunday, but reporting has typically been lower on weekends.
The entire NHL memorandum was published by the NHLPA on Monday afternoon. You can read it here.