By Harvey Hoffman
The Caps finally have a training camp date to hang their hats on.
The National Hockey League and Players Association have announced that formal training camps for the 24 teams resuming play will begin on Friday, July 10, if conditions allow it.
The league and its players are currently in Phase 2 of their “return to play” protocol, as NHL team training centers were reopened this week for small groups of players. Phase 3 is the opening of training camps, which are expected to last upwards of three weeks. Phase 4, the restart of the 2019-20 NHL season with a 24-team postseason tournament, would then commence in August.
It’s expected the NHLPA will vote on both Phases 3 and 4 at the same time, rather than having two different approval votes. The players have approved a postseason format if the season is restarted, but have no yet approved an actual return to play this summer.
The NHL and NHLPA said that the July 10 training camp date will happen “provided that medical and safety conditions allow and the parties have reached an overall agreement on resuming play.” The two sides have been negotiating on the details for Phase 3 and Phase 4, including the location of the two “hub” cities that would house 12 teams each, medical and safety protocols, accommodations and whether players will have interactions with their families during their quarantined stay in the “hubs.” There are also collective bargaining talks happening between the sides in the ramp up to the restart.
The joint announcement establishes a target travel date for players that are currently away from their home team cities. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said that upwards of 17 percent of players are currently overseas, having left after the league paused its season on March 12. Some NHL teams haven’t opened their training facilities because of a lack of demand from players, since many aren’t currently residing in their home cities.