The National Hockey League and its players’ union announced Monday that the two groups have agreed on a four-year extension to the current collective bargaining agreement, a key decision that opens the way for hockey to resume play amid the pandemic. of coronavirus.

As part of the agreement, the parties have set dates for the so-called Phase 3 and 4 of a return to play protocol. The formal training camps are scheduled to start on July 13th, with teams traveling to two major cities starting July 26th. The current CBA and Monday’s extension will bring the league to the next two Olympics – NHL players will participate after not playing in 2018, awaiting an agreement with the International Olympic Committee – and through a period of uncertainty until the salary cap numbers and commitment percentages cannot be planned more definitively.

The league has reportedly selected Edmonton and Toronto as the two so-called hub cities that will host its proposed return, but is awaiting approval from the players’ union. An expanded 24-team playoff will take place with the Western Conference teams competing in Edmonton and the team’s East Eastern team played in Toronto, starting August 1.

The selection of the two Canadian cities was made over the course of a month, after the NHL cut a list that initially included 10 potential hub cities. The pool was reduced to five – Las Vegas, Chicago and Los Angeles were the other candidates – after considering public health statistics and other data.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters last week that Canada would likely get past the worst of the epidemic. He also said that conditions in the United States – which have seen increases in cases since they reopened significant portions of its economy – have been cause for concern and could help guide Canada as they reopen gradually after the quarantine period.

The selection of a hub city in the United States would have required collaboration not only with local and provincial officials but with national authorities in Canada in order to allow movement across the border between the two countries, which was severely restricted during the explosion. The current restrictions prohibiting non-essential travel between the two countries expire on July 21, before the tournament starts.

The NHL has stated that public health is about the winning position in choosing sites. Eventually he put Eastern teams, including the Maple Leafs, in Toronto, and western teams, including the Oilers, in Edmonton.

Toronto, Canada’s largest and most diverse city, is one fundamental market for the future of hockey. Hosting the Eastern Conference there offers Maple Leafs round of 16 an advantage in these recast playoffs, where Columbus Blue Jackets will play ninth in one of the top five play-in series. Toronto had reported fewer than 15,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and around 1,000 deaths on July 1st.

Thanks in large part to his favorable public health conditions, Edmonton overtook the top favorites in Las Vegas, where the league usually holds its annual awards in the summer, and Vancouver, whose health officials would have conflicted with the league on protocols if a player had tested positive for viruses. There were just over 1,128 confirmed cases and 15 deaths in Edmonton from July 6th.

Edmonton offered both a link to the future of hockey – its Rogers Place arena opened in 2016 with a nearby entertainment district – and the past of the game, having been nicknamed “the city of champions” during the Oilers’ run to five Stanley Cups in the 1980s. The fifth seeders Oilers will host the seed n. 12 Chicago Blackhawks in their playoff matchup.

The playoffs will open with a five-game play-in series followed by a conference-based first round with a three-game round robin format to determine the first four seeds. The teams qualified for the postponed season based on the percentage of points at the time the season was suspended and will be reevaluated after each playoff round. The position of the Stanley Cup finals has not been determined. Players can cancel Phase 3 and 4 by notifying their team in writing within three days of ratifying the agreement.

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