Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic opts out of NHL’s return

With the Collective Bargaining Agreement formally ratified, the narrow window for players to officially opt out of returning to play is now open. 

Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic has become the first player to do so as he released a statement through his agency, Titan Sports 365 (Twitter link), indicating he will not be participating due to family reasons.

Hamonic’s daughter has had a previous battle with a life-threatening respiratory virus and Hamonic has a new baby boy as well, so he is erring on the side of caution.

Following the announcement, Flames GM Brad Treliving issued the following statement: 

“Earlier this evening Travis called me to inform us that he has decided to opt out of the NHL Return to Play Program. Travis explained that due to family considerations, he has made the difficult decision not to participate in the Stanley Cup Qualifier and Playoffs. While we will miss Travis in our lineup, we understand and respect his decision. Our focus remains on preparation for training camp and our upcoming series in the NHL Qualifying Round.”

Hamonic’s absence will be a notable one as, when healthy, he is one of Calgary’s most effective blueliners. He logged more than 21 minutes per game this season, including a team-high 3:06 per night on the penalty kill on a unit that was inside the NHL’s top 10. 

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Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Brian La Rose | Last updated 7/11/20

NHL and NHLPA agree on return to play protocols

While the work to finalize a CBA extension remains ongoing, it appears at least part of the final package to be voted on by the players has been completed. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports (Twitter thread) that the NHL and NHLPA have completed a 40-page document that will constitute the Return to Play protocols for the final two stages – training camp and the play-in round/postseason. Some of the details are as follows, courtesy of McKenzie unless otherwise noted:

  • Rosters will be limited to 30 skaters for Phase 3 with unlimited goalies. Only those that are eligible to play this season can be on the roster.
  • Players can opt out without any penalty but must notify his club in writing no later than 4 PM CT on Tuesday.
  • All club personnel will be tested 48 hours before they are permitted to return to club facilities. Once done, they will be tested every other day for the duration of their team’s games.
  • Players that are determined to be at a substantial risk of developing a serious illness if exposed to the coronavirus will be ruled unfit to play. However, the player can request a second opinion if they so desire.
  • Clubs will not be permitted to make announcements regarding the positive test of a player or team member without prior approval from the league in conjunction with the NHLPA.
  • Players who leave Stage 4 (the play-in round, round robin for the top four teams in each conference, and the playoffs) without approval will be subject to consequences up to and including removal which would constitute a disqualification for the player, notes Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman (Twitter link).  Clubs can also be penalized if this happens in the form of fines and/or forfeiture of draft picks.
  • Players who leave with approval will be forced to quarantine and will need to clear four tests within a four-day period to return, reports TSN’s Frank Seravalli (Twitter link).

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Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Brian La Rose | Last updated 7/5/20

NHL not planning to quarantine players during training camps

While the NBA is planning to place players in a quarantine “bubble” at Walt Disney World in Orlando, the NHL is taking a different approach to its return-to-play plan.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed Thursday that the league has no plans to put players in quarantine “bubbles” when training camps open July 10, according to The Canadian Press. 

This may be some cause for concern, however, as players are being asked to stay home when they’re not at their respective rinks for practice or workouts. The league is hoping that the adequate testing and health protocols put in place will prevent any coronavirus outbreaks before players travel to the league’s hub cities to resume play.

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By Erin Walsh | Last updated 6/26/20

NHL will not change Phase 3 start date in response to positive COVID tests

It was a rude awakening for the NHL yesterday. With Phase 2 voluntary workouts underway and excitement finally starting to build toward resuming the 2019-20 season later this summer, it seemed like everything might come to a screeching halt following yesterday’s revelation that 11 players had tested positive for coronavirus, including Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, since workouts began on June 8. Additionally, the Tampa Bay Lightning had to shut down their arena and stop all workouts with three players and two staff members among the many new COVID cases in the state of Florida. The NHL shut down in the first place in part to avoid the spread of the virus among its players and staff, but the early signs show that re-starting the league this soon might not be possible if this remains a key objective.

Not so fast though, says the league. Michael Russo and James Mirtle of The Athletic released an in-depth piece earlier today that details the many concerns that player and other stakeholders have with the NHL’s plans to resume play, especially following the positive test confirmed yesterday. Yet, the most important piece of the article is this: the NHL is not considering delaying the start of Phase 3 at this time. The next stage in the league’s plan to return to play is to open training camps on July 10, just under three weeks from now. This would set up the start of the expanded postseason for early August, a timeline that the league hopes would allow them to complete the season, take time off for the offseason, and begin the 2020-21 campaign before the start of the new year. As of right now, 11 positive COVID tests are not enough for the NHL to slow their plan of attack.

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Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Zach Leach | Last updated 6/20/20

NHL will reseed playoff teams after each round

Last week , NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league’s 24-team model for the completion of the 2019-20 season that was suspended on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. That model includes a round-robin format to determine playoff seeding and a play-in series for the remaining postseason berths. 

On Thursday, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan provided additional information on how the playoffs will look once the full tournament begins. 

Per Kaplan, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed the qualifying round for the available playoff spots will be determined by a best-of-five format. The remainder of the postseason will feature seven-game series. 

Teams will be reseeded after each playoff round leading up to the Stanley Cup Final. 

The NHL plans to place two sets of clubs at different bubble sites. While Bettman confirmed the league is considering 10 cities, he hasn’t yet announced where games will occur.

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By Zac Wassink | Last updated 6/4/2

Report: NHL teams to have 28-man rosters, unlimited goaltenders for training camp, playoffs

As part of the 24-team format to crown a Stanley Cup champion amid the coronavirus pandemic officially announced on Tuesday by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman , clubs will be limited to 50 personnel at hub cities for round-robin seeding games, all best-of-five play-in series, and the traditional Stanley Cup tournament.

Roster breakdowns for that allotment are now known.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press (h/t ESPN) confirmed that general managers have been told they can carry 28-man rosters and an unlimited amount of goaltenders for training camp and the playoffs.

The NHL hasn’t yet declared official dates for upcoming phases of the Return-to-Play process due to government regulations and safety guidelines, and also because the results of coronavirus tests across the league could postpone original plans.

During Tuesday’s announcement, Bettman explained that training camps won’t begin until at least early July. It is possible games may not get underway until August, and the playoffs could run through the start of autumn.

By Zac Wassink  |  Last updated 5/27/20

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Gary Bettman announces NHL plans for resumption of play with 24-team playoffs

On Tuesday afternoon, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman delivered the return-to-play plan agreed upon by the league and the NHL Players’ Association for the completion of the 2019-20 season suspended on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bettman announced that the regular season is over and places in standings are determined by points percentages — 24 teams, split into the top 12 from the two conferences, will be placed into separate “hub cities” for their portions of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ten cities are still being considered for the two bubble sites.

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By Zac Wassink | Last updated 5/26/20

NHL, NHLPA reportedly making progress on 24-team playoff format

With plenty of options available to the NHL when it comes to resuming play, progress is being made toward a possible playoff format. According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the Return to Play Committee is leaning toward a 24-team playoff format to wrap up the 2019-20 season.

LeBrun reports, however, that there is quite a bit of work still to be done if a 24-team playoff is to become a reality, but there has been significant progress made this weekend. Talks are expected to continue over the next couple of days with the potential that a plan will officially be outlined next week, as both sides are much closer on what a return to action might look like. Of course, once the Return to Play Committee does come to an agreement, it must pass through the NHL Executive Board and be approved.

On top of that, there is a Board of Governors meeting on Monday. Whether NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will have a deal ready to pass on by then is unknown unless the Return to Play Committee can come to an agreement in the next 24 hours.

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Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors By Holger Stolzenberg | Last updated 5/17/20

Commissioner Gary Bettman not contemplating canceling NHL season

Well hockey fans, it looks like there’s no sign of the NHL canceling its season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman appeared as a guest in a virtual town hall hosted by the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and noted canceling the season is “not something I’m even contemplating.”

“I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done,” Bettman said, according to Curtis Pashelka of The Mercury News. “I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we’re doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity.”

The NHL has only canceled its season twice… in 1919 because of the Spanish flu and in 2005 because of the lockout.

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By Erin Walsh | Last updated 5/13/20

NHL still hoping to move to Phase 2 in late May

We haven’t seen an NHL game since the league decided to temporarily suspend their season on March 12, nearly two full months ago. Speculation during that time on if, when and how games would resume has run wild, without any real concrete information being given to this point. Tuesday, Darren Dreger of TSN gives the newest update on what the league is hoping:

“Well the NHL is hopeful they’ll be able to initiate Phase 2 in later-May, but that’s all subject to a review and it is too early to start the review process. The NHL though is encouraged by the markets that are loosening up but their cautiously optimistic and monitoring carefully to see if there will be any setbacks. The motto is simply: better safe than sorry.”

Phase 2 was defined by the league and players’ association as a time “during which Players might return to small group activities in NHL Club training facilities” not, quite importantly, a training camp for the teams (which is Phase 3). That means we are still several weeks away from players even gathering together to start skating in a best-case scenario.

Of course, even that plan would need to be signed off on from the union. Tuesday, Justin Holl voiced some concerns about the American-born players returning to Canada without a concrete plan in place for when they’ll be back in game action. Players do not want to be quarantined from their families for several months, meaning they’ll have to come to some sort of an agreement before any plan is put in place.

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Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 5/6/2