Hockey fans have reason to be cautiously optimistic. After weeks of mandated self-quarantine, the NHL return is now on the horizon. In an unusual statement to clear up reports and rumors, the league announced it is not yet moving forward to Phase 2 of the return to play scenario.
However, as part of the announcement, the league announced they hoped to move to Phase 2 of the NHL return to play scenario in mid to late May. The NHL and NHLPA met on Wednesday to discuss the serious issues which the sides will face to restart the 2019-20 season after the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic pause which began in early March.
“Given recent developments in some NHL Clubs’ local communities, we are now looking ahead to Phase 2 of the transition period that would follow the currently recommended Phase 1 period of “self-quarantine” by Players and Hockey Staff,” read the NHL release.
Many areas in the country, including western PA, have proportionally small numbers of infections. Pittsburgh is reportedly on the NHL shortlist of cities should the league reach Phase 3, which is the official return of hockey at quarantined sites.
The league believes if favorable trends continue, it will open the door to moving forward.
“The precise date of transition to Phase 2, during which Players might return to small group activities in NHL Club training facilities, remains undetermined,” the league released read. “However, provided that conditions continue to trend favorably – and, subject to potential competitive concerns as between disparately situated markets – we believe we may be able to move to Phase 2 at some point in the mid-to-late portion of May.”
Mid to late May. You’re forgiven if you smiled.
The NHL will provide hockey players and staff further guidance as they decide to move to Phase 2.
Also part of Phase 2 is the reopening of facilities. The NBA is working towards making practice facilities available to players on May 8. The NHL could follow soon after.
One of the issues which could become a stumbling block is pulling players away from their families for several months. Such isolation is likely necessary to guarantee safety.
The NHL and NHLPA return to play committee continues to meet regularly.