NHL Phases 3 and 4, explained: What to know about next steps for 2019-20 season return

The NHL is closer than ever to resuming play after the league and the NHL Players’ Association reached a tentative agreement Sunday on protocols for the final two phases of their joint Return to Play (RTP) plan, Phases 3 and 4.

Players may be just days away from the start of training camps, which would be followed by games in the qualifying and seeding rounds ahead of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. The league and players must first ratify not only the RTP plan but also a new collective bargaining agreement that would extend through the 2025-26 season.

Teams have been conducting limited workouts since June under Phase 2 of the RTP.

Here are the main things we know so far about Phases 3 and 4 of the NHL’s return.

When will Phase 3 begin?

Phase 3 (training camps) could begin as early as July 13, according to the timetable that has been reported by multiple media outlets. Camps will begin only after the RTP and CBA plans are ratified by players the league’s Board of Governors. That process could begin as early as Monday.

How long will NHL Phase 3 last?

Phase 3 will last about 2 1/2 weeks, from the start of training camps in home cities to the start of Phase 4 (games) in bubble cities Toronto and Edmonton.

When will Phase 4 begin?

Phase 4 could begin as soon as Aug. 1 if camps open July 13. Under that timeline, teams would report to the hub cities on July 26 and then complete Phase 3. 

How many players will be allowed to participate in Phase 3 workouts?

Teams can have up to 30 skaters on the ice for training camp, according to The Associated Press. There is no limit on the amount of goaltenders. Teams must tell the league by Friday, July 9, who will be participating. Only players who are eligible to compete in the season’s resumption can participate in Phase 3, McKenzie noted.

How frequently will NHL players be tested for COVID-19?

Players will need to take temperature and symptom tests daily, at home and at the training facility, according to TSN.ca’s Bob McKenzie. 

How will the phases be affected if players test positive?

Individual positive tests likely won’t stop play, per the AP; only an outbreak would do that. The AP also reported that players will likely be isolated through the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Family members will be able to join them for the conference finals, which will be held in one of the hub cities. 

What will happen to a player if he chooses not to play?

Players will not be penalized if they opt out of returning to the ice, but they must notify their teams of that intention in writing by 5 p.m. ET July 7, according to The Associated Press. There will be another deadline set after all agreements have been ratified, the AP added.

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