When fans were told players could start skating again in small groups towards in the end of the May, hopes were high that an NHL return would be put into gears and could happen this summer.
However, Darren Dreger explained that it remains too soon to set a date for the start of Phase 2 of the return plan, given the surge in cases in Russia. Players might not be able to return as soon as first hoped and it could impact the whole schedule.
“It’s impossible to identify a true deadline. Of course, the hope is later this month. There’s some clubs who are optimistic that might happen, in terms of initiation of Phase 2. There’s other teams around the NHL that are way more pessimistic, especially given the surge in cases in Russia. But there’s a lot of work being done on the protocol between the NHL, the Players’ Association and the Return to Play Committee. Now, some of the protocol in Phase 2 is pretty obvious. It’s small gathering stuff. It’s social distancing. It’s scheduled shifts when players are allowed to return to their home clubs. It’s small dedicated team staff working on training and what not. It’s strict sanitization protocol. All of this could be decided and determined and agreed upon at some point this week. It could drift into next week.”
With teams being pessimistic, that does not help the NHL and its Return to Play committee in making a decision on when Phase 2 should be applied across the league.
When the NHL explained its plan, aiming for late May to kick off Phase 2 iin order to resume this summer, it was also mentioned that if the league does eventually return to the ice to finish off the 2019-20 season, teams won’t be getting an unfair advantage in regards to training. This is how Dreger had reported it:
“The NHL is hopeful that they will be able to initiate Phase 2 in later May, but that’s all subject to a review and it is too early to start the review process. The NHL though is encouraged by the markets that are loosening up and are cautiously optimistic, and monitoring carefully to see if there will be any setbacks. The modo is Better safe, then sorry.
Phase 2 can’t really get started the large majority of the NHL teams are able to open up and that means players coming back. But here’s an interesting twist to all that: even though the majority of clubs may be able to open up, unless they can all about up at the same time or around the same time, the NHL isn’t going to allow players to go to their clubs’ facility again. Until the majority are able to do that.”
And so, if teams are pessimistic and unable to enter Phase 2, it means that the return to play will be delayed… for everyone!