The Colorado Avalanche know the next phase of Return to Play — dates when training camps can begin. The NHL and NHLPA are working on Phase 4.
The Colorado Avalanche have entered Phase 2 of the NHL’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. They’re officially allowed to let players into their team facilities to train in small groups. They are subject to a host of provisions. Phase 2 started on Monday, June 8. though some teams (including the Avalanche) waited until later in the week because not many of their players are in residence.
Meanwhile, the NHL has announced the date for their Phase 3, which is formal training camps for all 24 teams involved in the playoff format. The camps can officially start Friday, July 10. Here’s the NHL’s statement:
As you can see, Phase 3 is dependent on certain conditions being met. The most important, of course, is safety. Phase 2 already has extensive safety protocols in place, including daily temperature checks and bi-weekly testing. Phase 3 might necessitate daily testing.
The NHL and NHLPA also need to hammer out the details of Phase 4, which includes the play-in round, the round-robin, and the actual playoffs. The expected scenario is the 24 teams will be split into two hub cities according to their conferences. At that stage, they’ll be in a quarantine bubble.
The quarantine bubble is a big sticking point for the players. Many of them are not keen on being segregated from their families for up to two months. I don’t understand why families couldn’t be quarantined with them or be required to test before being allowed to enter the quarantine bubble.
Before anyone decries the amount of testing, know that I could leave my computer this minute, drive over to Pepsi Center, and get tested for free with no doctor’s note and no symptoms. Testing must be available.
Another sticking point is the players’ lifestyles for those weeks. They’re not keen on living their whole life between the rink and the hotel where they’d be staying. They’re talking about chartering some area restaurants so that they could also go to restaurants. They’d have to be the only people, along with team and arena staff, who’d be allowed in those restaurants.
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I’m not sure if the teams or the players would be paying for these meals. I’d like to think whomever is picking up the tab would also treat team and arena staff to many meals.
The NHL hasn’t settled on which cities will be the hubs. They’re keeping their option open to see where infection rates will be lowest. Laughably, Dallas with its Texas-style aversion to social distancing (they even eschew masks, and many restaurants are at full capacity) are still in the running. I’m going to predict they won’t be a hub. Vegas is a heavy favorite, but casinos are open now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see infection rates spike there, too.
Another sticking point with choosing a hub city is Canada’s requirement for all incoming people to self-quarantine for 14 days. As of now, NHLers aren’t exempt from this mandate. It’s understood that, if they don’t lift that mandate, no Canadian city will be chosen as the hub.
Going back to Phase 3, training camp will take place in each team’s home cities. As of right now, the U.S.-Canadian border is still closed, and that closure is expected to extend to late July. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has exempted professional athletes from any proclamations barring their entry into the U.S. That exemption also extends to their families as well as team staff.
So, any Colorado Avalanche players in Canada ( I believe it’s five) can legally return for Phase 2 and 3. The sticking point is all the players who flew away to Europe, which is about seven for the Avs.
The length of training camp hasn’t been determined. However, the expectation is two to three weeks. The play-in and round robin tournaments would start right after that, so the beginning of August. You’d expect to have the Stanley Cup awarded by the end of September.