Tagged in: League

NHL teams clear to reopen facilities Monday in Phase 2 of return to play plan

The National Hockey League is transitioning to Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan, as teams will be allowed to reopen training facilities in their cities on Monday if local regulations allow it.

On a “strictly voluntary basis,” players can participate in small-group team training, with a maximum of six players at one time plus a limited number of staff members in the facility. This training will include small group sessions for on-ice workouts for players only, with no coaches or other team personnel allowed on the ice. Players must wear face coverings at all times in the facility, except when exercising or on the ice.

Many NHL players haven’t skated since the league paused its regular campaign on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The NHL said teams can immediately start preparation for the players’ return, including the planning of medical tests and education sessions about new safety protocols.

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In late May, the NHL circulated a document to teams detailing how training facilities should reopen to maximize player health and safety. Everyone involved in Phase 2 will be administered a laboratory-based reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test 48 hours before they can participate.

If local testing capacity allows, everyone participating in Phase 2 will be tested “at least twice weekly” afterward, according to the NHL. Players will check their temperatures daily and will have their temperatures checked before entering the facilities. They’ll also keep a log of temperatures and any symptoms that could signal a COVID-19 infection.

The return to training facilities is a major step toward the opening of NHL training camps in July, ahead of what the league hopes is a return to conclude the season at two hub cities in a previously announced postseason format.

The NHLPA voted to approve that format, but has yet to vote on an actual return to the ice. The NHLPA will receive feedback from players during this return to training facilities. The feedback will help with negotiations about training camp regulations and issues regarding what life could be like in those hub cities.

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NFL to release regular-season schedule Thursday

The NFL will release its regular-season schedule on Thursday night, the league reported Monday, as it continues conducting business mostly as usual amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The schedule will be disclosed in a three-hour telecast on NFL Network starting at 8 p.m.

Thus far, the league has not announced any major updates to its schedule as a result of the pandemic, which has brought most organized sports around the globe to a halt. NFL training facilities are closed because of the pandemic, leading to the league’s first-ever “virtual offseason,” but the league still plans to start the campaign on time while playing in teams’ home stadiums.

Opening day for the 2020 season is Sept. 10, with the season set to finish with Super Bowl 55 on February 7, 2021. The NFL also held last month’s draft on time while canceling all in-person events. The draft had been set for Las Vegas; instead, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced picks from his home.

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Should the pandemic force major changes to the season, the league is considering alternatives including empty stadiums, neutral sites and getting rid of bye weeks, league executive Troy Vincent told The Associated Press last week. Any such changes would have to be approved by the players union.

Earlier Monday, the NFL announced it was moving its five matches scheduled for London and Mexico City this season back to U.S. stadiums.

The league has evaluated contingency plans should the pandemic intensify, working in conjunction with the NFL Players Association and medical experts on a set of protocols.

The league is evaluating when players can re enter team facilities. The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to keep buildings closed until every state in which a team resides lifts its stay-at-home mandate. Teams are conducting organized team activities virtually.

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NBA discusses delaying start of 2020-21 season until December

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and team owners examined delaying the start of next season until December due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — an idea that is reportedly gaining traction among owners.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to suspend operations on March 11. The league presently doesn’t have any specific plans to resume play. 

The NBA officially postponed both the draft lottery and scouting combine on Friday, both of which were scheduled to take place this month in Chicago. It did not delay the draft itself — which is currently scheduled for June 25 — however “there’s an increasing belief that it’s just a matter of time” before that happens, per Wojnarowski. 

There were more than 1.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 64,500 deaths attributed to the virus.

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Most sports leagues in the country, including the NBA, have considered playing matches without fans present upon return.

The idea behind delaying the start of next season, per Wojnarowski, is to allow fans to be present for as much of the season as possible. 

“If you start in December, that doesn’t mean the [fans] are coming back in December, but maybe they’re back in March,” one owner told ESPN. 

While talks occurred on Friday, there are “no imminent plans” to make any decisions about next season now. Before that plan is made, the league will almost certainly need to determine how it will move forward with the rest of the current season. 

Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said in March that he believes beginning the season in mid-December rather than in mid-October would eliminate competition with most other professional sports leagues. Instead of competing with the NFL and college football for the first few months of the season, the NBA would be able to dominate the winter and summer — where Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour are, for the most part, alone in the sports world. 

Doing so would push the NBA Finals to August, which would allow the season to conclude just before football begins again each fall.

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