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BLOG: Players Excited to Return to Skating After Three-Month Absence

With work still to be done, players encouraged by progress in Return to Play plan

by Carter Baum @CarterBaum /

The last 36 hours have seen two big steps forward for the Blackhawks and the NHL as a whole.

On Wednesday, the team was able to open its practice facility at Fifth Third Arena for small, voluntary player workouts -- the first time players have been allowed back inside team facilities since the NHL paused its regular season almost exactly three months prior.

Then, Thursday brought news that the NHL and NHL Players' Association agreed on a July 10 opening of team training camps for the 24 teams set to resume play, assuming medical and safety conditions allow and that the two agreeing parties can work out the final details of what a training camp and the proposed Return to Play plan would look like between now and then. 

"It's exciting. I think we're still agreeing on some stuff but if we do get that chance to come back, I think everyone's excited to play hockey again," said Alex DeBrincat, who was one of a handful of players to take the ice in Chicago on Wednesday. "I know it's been a tough few months for a lot of us not being able to get on the ice or anything and to finally get back on the ice these past few days has been really fun for me."

"For them to come out with that solid date is really cool," added Connor Murphy speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon. "Even just from a training aspect to know your timeline of how to ramp up things and how to kind of gauge your training sessions ... just knowing that that isn't too far away is really exciting. I think we've all been sitting around for a long time, so to have a chance to get everyone back together and get competing again is a big bonus."

Video: Bowman on the players' excitement to return to play

Unlike a traditional NHL offseason where players have been staking on their own and following a regimented offseason plan, most have been confined to their home gyms or limited resources around them to stay in shape. With nearly three months since most players last took the ice, there's still a long road to be prepared to not only play in an NHL game, but stepping right into a postseason game at that.

Regardless, progress is being made and it's a step for the many who have been patiently waiting it out since the final horn on March 11. 

"It's a nice thing to hear, something to really work towards. I think we've all been wanting it, but obviously there's a process to work through," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "You can start to kind of work backwards as far as the preparation that we'll want to do as coaches and obviously for the players and getting ready for that training camp and potentially playing, everyone's really excited about playing these types of games and we want to get there. That date, it's great to see it."

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