By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The National Hockey League is not out of the COVID-19 pandemic woods just yet. But the league appears hopeful that they can move ahead to Phase 2 within the next month or so, the league and NHLPA confirmed in a statement Wednesday.
“The precise date of transition to Phase 2, during which Players might return to small group activities in NHL Club training facilities, remains undetermined,” the parties wrote in a statement. “However, provided that conditions continue to trend favorably — and, subject to potential competitive concerns as between disparately situated markets — we believe we may be able to move to Phase 2 at some point in the mid-to-later portion of May. Specific guidelines governing Player and Hockey Staff activity would be provided at that time. In the meantime, we expect Players and Hockey Staff to continue to adhere to the recommended guidelines put in place when the season was paused on March 12.”
As the joint statement noted, Phase 2 would be a slow ease back to some semblance of normalcy with players getting together in smaller groups at the team training centers. For the Bruins, that would mean a return to Brighton’s Warrior Ice Arena, which has been closed to all (including the Bruins) since Friday, Mar. 13.
It would also require some of the Black and Gold’s skaters to return back to the Boston area, as more than a few B’s have used this break to return back home, from Colorado (Brandon Carlo) to Sweden (Joakim Nordstrom) and beyond.
Assuming they’re given the green light to return to the facilities and they move ahead without any issues, the league would then move to Phase 3. That would be the start of full-on training camps for all 31 teams with the intentions of returning to game action about three weeks later. Phase 4, of course, would be a return to real, live, meaningful games.
But given the uncertainty surrounding everything — local lockdowns, travel bans, and the anticipated second wave of the coronavirus itself — the NHL and its players are looking at everything with a ‘one step at a time’ mindset. And this? Well, it’s an undeniably small (and still merely hypothetical) step forward, but they’ll take what you can get at this point.
The NHL, which paused on Mar. 12 and with the Bruins atop the league standings as the league’s lone 100-point team, is reportedly willing to delay the start of next season (to December if necessary) to have a finish to the 2019-20 year.