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Return to Play

Key questions, answers on protocols in Phases 3, 4 of Return to Play Plan

Guidelines set for COVID-19 testing with training camps to begin July 13

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

The NHL and NHL Players' Association on Monday announced an agreement in principle on protocols for Phases 3 and 4 of the NHL Return to Play Plan. The protocols will take effect only if the NHL Board of Governors and NHLPA membership vote to approve a memorandum of understanding to extend the collective bargaining agreement between the League and union through Sept. 15, 2026.

Phase 3 is scheduled to begin at team facilities July 13. Teams will then travel to two centralized hub cities on July 26 for Phase 4, which is resumption of play, with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers starting Aug. 1.

The NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and announced its Return to Play Plan on May 26 with 24 teams competing for the Stanley Cup.

Play will resume with the qualifiers, which will include 16 teams playing eight best-of-5 series and a round-robin among the top four teams in points percentage in each conference to determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here are key questions and answers about the protocols for Phases 3 and 4:



How many players can attend training camp?

Rosters will be limited to 30 skaters, but each team can have an unlimited number of goalies.

Who is eligible to attend?

Only players eligible for the 2020 playoffs can participate. 

Are there any limitations to the on-ice and off-ice activities?

Unlike the Phase 2 voluntary small-group workouts, there is no limit to the number of players participating in workouts, and coaches, general managers and hockey operations personnel are permitted to have direct interaction with the players.

What are the guidelines for COVID-19 testing, and who is required to be tested?

Players, team personnel and other personnel who will be in the vicinity of players (ice and building maintenance, security, etc.) will be tested 48 hours prior to returning to team facilities and every other day after that.

What other precautions do the players and personnel with player access have to follow?

They will conduct symptom and temperature self-checks daily at home not more than two hours prior to entering team facilities. In addition, teams will administer separate temperature and symptom checks at team facilities prior to permitting the players or personnel to enter.

What happens if a player develops COVID-19 symptoms and tests positive?

Anyone who develops symptoms or comes in contact with someone who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 shall immediately notify team medical staff and self-isolate. The individual will immediately be evaluated by the team physician, who will consult with the team's infectious disease expert and determine the next steps.

If that individual tests positive, they can return to team facilities following the resolution of any fever and improvement of their respiratory symptoms after they test negative twice at least 24 hours apart. The individual can also return to team facilities after a minimum of 10 days in self-isolation following the onset of symptoms if they have had no fever or respiratory symptoms for more than 72 hours.

What if a player is asymptomatic and tests positive?

If an individual is asymptomatic and tests positive, they will undergo a confirmatory test to verify the initial result. Asymptomatic individuals whose initial tests are confirmed positive by the second test will be required to self-isolate until cleared medically.

That requires two negative tests at least 24 hours apart or the passage of 10 days since the initial positive test, provided the person has remained asymptomatic during the entire period of their self-isolation.

If the second test is negative, the asymptomatic person will remain in isolation and be tested again after 24 hours. If that test remains negative, the person will be permitted to leave isolation and return to full participation in team activities if cleared by the team physician.



Where will the games take place?

Games will be played and teams will be housed at Phase 4 Secure Zones in two hub cities to be announced. The secure zones will include hotels, restaurants, practice facilities and the arena, where exhibition, qualifier and postseason games will be played.

How many players will be permitted into the secure zones?

Rosters will be limited to 31 players, including goalies.

What is the limit on the number of people each team can bring into the secure zones?

Each team will be permitted a maximum of 52 people inside the secure zone, including ownership, players, coaches, executives and staff.

Where will the players stay?

Players will stay in single-occupancy hotel rooms with each team assigned a designated floor. Players are not permitted to enter each other's rooms. They will have access to hotel bars, restaurants, pools and fitness centers provided they follow social distancing guidelines.

Are masks required inside the secure zone?

Anyone inside the secure zone must wear a cloth or surgical-type mask when outside their room. Masks can be removed while exercising, playing, eating or drinking. Coaches are not required to wear masks on the bench. On-ice officials are not required to wear masks during games.

How long will the teams remain in the hub cities?

The teams who advance from the qualifiers will remain in the hub cities to play the first two rounds of the playoffs. The four teams that advance past the second round will convene at one of the two hub cities for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.

Can the players' families visit them?

Family members can join players in the secure zones for the conference finals and Cup Final.

What are the guidelines for COVID-19 testing within the secure zone?

Each person will be tested three times, 48 hours apart, in the seven days prior to their team's charter flight to the hub city. Once inside the secure zone, individuals will undergo daily COVID-19 tests, symptom checks and temperature screenings. The protocols for a positive test result are similar to Phase 3.

Will the identity of players who test positive be revealed?

No. If a player tests positive or develops symptoms during Phases 3 and 4, teams are not permitted to share that information with the media or public without approval from the NHL, in consultation with the NHLPA.

Can a player leave the secure zone and return?

A player can leave if he receives permission for medical reasons or there are extenuating circumstances such as the birth of a child, illness or death in their family, or a family event, such as a wedding. When the player returns, he will be required to quarantine in his hotel room until he has received at least four consecutive negative test results over a four-day period.

What if a player leaves the secure zone without permission or a team otherwise violates the protocol rules?

Players who leave without permission may be subject to removal from Phase 4 or a strict quarantine of 10-14 days with enhanced testing and monitoring upon return. Teams that break the protocol rules will face significant penalties, including fines and/or loss of picks in the NHL Draft.

Can a player opt out of the Return to Play Plan?

Any player may choose not to participate in Phases 3 and 4 without discipline or penalty. The player must notify his team in writing within 72 hours of the completion of the ratification process.

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