The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association have agreed on a four-year extension of their current collective bargaining agreement and terms on their return-to-play plan for the upcoming Stanley Cup playoff tournament.
The owners and players’ union now have to pass the memorandum of agreement for it to take effect. That review and approval process will occur during the next few days, the two entities said in a joint media release.
The agreement calls for NHL players to return to their home cities for formal training camps by July 13, with travel to the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto for the tournament by July 26. The qualifying rounds begin Aug. 1.
The NHL suspended play May 12, the same day as Major League Baseball and a day after the National Basketball Association shuttered its season because of fear of the spreading coronavirus across North America. On that day, there were only 40 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. As of Monday, there were 130,101 deaths in the U.S. and 8,742 in Canada.
The surge in cases to almost 3 million in the U.S. made it imperative that the bubble tournament be played in Canada. The NHL had been considering a U.S. site in either Las Vegas or Chicago until cases of the disease surged.
The agreement includes nearly 50 pages of health and safety protocols for a Phase 3 start of training camps and a Phase 4 start to the tournament.
The tournament will include 24 teams with 12 each going to the assigned cities for qualifying rounds and the first two best-of-seven playoff rounds. The final four teams will be housed in one facility to compete for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, which will also be best-of sevens, said documents provided by the NHL and the union.