Hockey could be on the horizon as league officials met Thursday to discuss the resumption of the 2019-2020 season. The league sent out memos to clubs stating that players should “consider whether to plan to return to their club cities”. Hopefully the memo is the start of “Phase 2” of the league’s plan to resume the season.
What is Phase Two
Phase 2 of the NHL’s plan to resume the season is quite simple. A press release sent out by the league and players association states that phase 2 allows players to “…return to small group activities in NHL Club training facilities…”. This would allow players to return to weight room and dry land facilities. Although in a limited capacity, the return of small workouts goes a long way in determining when the season returns. Workouts like these are critical to getting in game shape as a training camp would likely follow suit. The league is hoping for late may as a time frame to open facilities. This would allow them to go forward with their most recent idea. The idea is to have three to four host cities that with lodging and training facilities in close proximity, as well as low Covid-19 cases. There would be two to three games per day at each arena to allow for the completion of the regular season.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 29, 2020
The opening of team facilities has the potential to give certain teams a competitive advantage. As some markets such as Nashville, Carolina, Minnesota, and now with Florida reopening Tampa and sunrise would likely face little resistance in reopening facilities. However, more impacted markets such as New York, New Jersey, and California would face stingier conditions. For phase two to continue the league needs to have a plan open facilities at the same time, or move certain teams to a central location. This would avoid any competitive advantages between teams.
Travel is one of the biggest hurdles the league will have to deal with. The boarder with Canada is closed for non-essential travel and international flights are at a standstill. This poses a major problem as over a third of active players are from Europe. The league would have to give enough time for all players to safely return to their club cities in order for phase two to begin. Three weeks might not be enough. If this becomes impossible, then all hopes of phase 2 in late May will disappear. No travel equals no resumption.
Reality of season resumption
Although talks of phase 2 are encouraging, it by no means confirms that the season will resume. The league was very adamant that a “precise date…remains uncertain”. In reality, little has changed. The resumption of the NHL season is at the mercy of Covid-19. In Addition, there are many concerns that must be addressed before the reopening of facilities. competitive disparities, travel concerns, and time spent away from family are among the few. These concerns must be sorted out if phase two is to continue forward.
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