On Monday, the NHL released a 22-page memo outlining Phase 2 of their “Return to Sport” Protocol. It outlines travel, testing, personnel restrictions, social distancing measures, and hygiene requirements (looking at you, Brad).
It’s a long document that goes over a lot, I admit I haven’t read through it all myself, butthe SB Nation sites of our two biggest rivals (Boston and Toronto) had both an in-depth and quick summary of the memo in very digestible articles.
Katya’s article at PPP has taken quotes from the memo and written with an emphasis on travel regulations, testing and positive test protocols, and player safety. SkyOnAir at SCoC has done a point-form “Cliffnotes” that carries some good tidbits on how players will train before training camps open.
“The NHL is setting a standard for contact tracing regardless of local rules, so they are requiring more than many jurisdictions currently insist upon or are capable of providing.” - Pension Plan Puppets
“Six-Man Squads: Players are to be sectioned into groups of six at a time to use on-ice and training facilities. If the player’s team is in a hotspot city, this number could shrink.” - Stanley Cup of Chowder
How it affects the Lightning
Parallel to Phase 2 beginning sometime in June, the NHLPA proposed a 24-team playoff format (although, we have later learned that it’s only a partial proposal and doesn’t outline the whole tournament).
The Tampa Bay Lightning as a team voted against the proposal at the NHLPA Executive Board meeting. Alex Killorn cited unfair odds for the team and the possibility for rust for bye teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins voted in favor of it, but stated that they weren’t eager to isolate from their families for such a long time.
Alex Killorn hopes to make one thing clear about @TBLightning + playoffs: “Everyone on our team wants to play hockey.” But Killorn, Tampa’s @NHLPA rep, explains to @TheAthletic why they were one of two teams to vote no on 24-team format. On their concerns https://t.co/Isw8mS58ze— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) May 24, 2020
A reminder, Phase 1 was lockdown, Phase 2 is being described as re-organizing the players back into their team cities, with Phase 3 being training camps, and Phase 4 being the games.
Players won’t have to deal with the reality of being away from their families until the NHL hits Phase 3 of re-starting. However, for the players coming from out of town or choosing to isolate from their families during Phase 2, they will be on their own, living in hotels that are being paid for by the league.
Adding up all the weeks of quarantine, training camp, and games, some these players might be forced to be on their own for 3-4 months. It’s a heck of a sacrifice for a sport.
The NHL still doesn’t have concrete plans for where players will skate during training camps and games, but it’s expected that training camps will happen in home cities, with games being organized in host cities. There won’t be enough ice in any city to hold 24 training camps.
With the AHL and ECHL seasons cancelled, the NHL will be having Taxi Squads of NHL contracted players in the minor leagues being allowed to join the team as spares. For the Lightning, there will be some obvious choices from the Syracuse Crunch, but not everyone will be invited. Those on the Crunch that will told to stay home will be a very telling list, especially if one of the high-profile prospects — namely, Cal Foote, Mathieu Joseph, Alex Barre-Boulet, Alex volkov, Taylor Raddysh, and Boris Katchouk — are left off the list.
“With the AHL season and playoffs now cancelled, teams are assembling so-called taxi squads of players who finished the season in the AHL and will be available as recalls when play resumes. No formal official rules have been announced on how this will work or how large a roster a team will be allowed to have.” - Pension Plan Puppets
On the whole, it seems like the NHL is taking the obviously dangerous action of re-opening seriously. Initially, I had half-expected the league to just have the players follow the social distancing guidelines of their local governments, but they’ve instead gone for a much more strict approach, knowing the virus’ spread within the league could be catastrophic. If one person gets infected, it’s going to spread like the mumps.
"You guys need to let us know if you develop any COVID-19 symptoms, OK?" pic.twitter.com/IsMnujfnEk— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) May 25, 2020
There was a lot of speculation about the Draft after talks on it completely dried up with the introduction of the 24-team playoff proposal. It’s expected that the league will either have the bottom seven teams in the Lottery with increased odds, or the bottom seven plus the eight teams kicked out of the “Play-In” round. The NHL does not want a team in the final four rounds of the playoffs also holding a lottery pick at any cost.
If the rumors of a Draft before the Playoffs are true, it’s logical to believe they will only give the bottom seven teams a chance at drafting Alexis Lafreniere.
Hearing June 26 is the date that we should have the NHL Lottery Draft. No dates on the NHL Draft yet.— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) May 25, 2020
And I think that’s it. Hope your memorial weekend was safe and sound!