The National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) and NHL have ratified a four-year extension to their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and formalized a return to play plan. As a result, and following a 142-day hiatus, the NHL will drop the puck with a five-game schedule of Stanley Cup qualifiers on August 1.
Described in a joint statement as a set of sweeping agreements, the CBA and plan pave the way for the resumption of the 2019-20 NHL season toward the crowning of a Stanley Cup champion by early October. They also provide an updated economic framework for the League and its players, including addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When competition resumes, the 12 participating Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto, while the 12 participating Western Conference teams will compete in Edmonton. The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final will take place in Edmonton. Each team will be permitted to bring a maximum of 52 individuals into the Secure Zones in the hub cities, including a maximum of 31 players.
In keeping with the League’s commitment to the health and safety of all participants, each of the 52 club personnel will live inside a secure “bubble” – the Phase 4 Secure Zone – and will be tested daily for COVID-19 as well as being administered daily temperature checks and symptom screenings.
Furthermore, individuals who might have direct or indirect contact with NHL teams will be tested daily. Any person inside the Secure Zone who tests positive will immediately be isolated.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said last Friday: “Today, the NHL and the NHLPA announced a significant agreement that addresses the uncertainty everyone is dealing with, the framework for the completion of the 2019-20 season and the foundation for the continued long-term growth of our League.
“I thank NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr and Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider, the more than 700 NHL players – particularly those who worked on our Return to Play Committee – and the NHL’s Board of Governors for coming together under extraordinary circumstances for the good of our game.
“While we have all worked very hard to try to address the risks of COVID-19, we know that health and safety are and will continue to be our priorities. We know that all of our fans are excited about our return to the ice next month and that has been our goal since we paused our season on March 12.”
Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director, commented: “This agreement is a meaningful step forward for the players and owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time. This would not have happened but for the enormous contributions that the players made throughout, particularly those who served on the Negotiating and Return to Play Committees, as well as those on the Executive Board.
“I also thank Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the NHL staff for their efforts towards finding solutions to the problems we face. Most importantly, we are pleased to be able to bring NHL hockey back to the fans. We look forward to the NHL’s continued growth here in North America and on the world stage.”