The COVID-19 Pandemic will, essentially, be ignored in Toronto and Edmonton beginning on Aug. 1. That’s the day the National Hockey League will return to complete the 2019-20 playoff season.
On Friday, the NHL owners and the NHL Players Association ratified a four-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that will now operate through the 2025-26 season. As well, a Return to Play Plan for the 2019-20 post-season was also completed.
“The sweeping agreements pave the way for the resumption of the 2019-20 NHL season toward the crowning of a Stanley Cup champion by early October,” said NHL Players Association spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon in a written statement. “(It will) provide an updated economic framework for the League and its Players, including addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
With the agreements ratified, the Winnipeg Jets will return to action on Aug. 1 in Edmonton in the first game of a best-of-five qualifying round series against the Calgary Flames. The Jets and Flames are scheduled to play on Aug. 1, Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 and Aug. 6 and Aug. 8 if necessary.
After a 142-day pause to the season,the 12 participating Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto, while the 12 participating Western Conference teams will compete in Edmonton. The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final will take place in Edmonton. Each team will be permitted to bring a maximum of 52 individuals into the Secure Zones in the hub cities, including a maximum of 31 players.
“In keeping with the League’s commitment to the health and safety of all participants, each of the 52 Club personnel will live inside a secure bubble – the Phase 4 Secure Zone – and will be tested daily for COVID-19 as well as being administered daily temperature checks and symptom screenings,” Weatherdon wrote. “As well, individuals who might have direct or indirect contact with NHL teams will be tested daily. Any person inside the Secure Zone who tests positive will immediately be isolated.”
As part of the agreement, the 2020 NHL Draft will take place on Oct. 9 and 10. The final segment of the 2020 Draft Lottery will take place on Aug. 10.
The NHLPA presented the following Return to Play Highlights:
Games have been scheduled on a staggered basis, providing hours of continuous action. The start times for the 10 days of Stanley Cup Qualifiers in Toronto (Eastern Conference games) will be: 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. CDT. In order to maximize the viewing experience for fans across North America, the start times for the three game windows in Edmonton (Western Conference games) are 1 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. CDT and 9:30 p.m. Those times could fluctuate by up to 30 minutes during the qualifying round.
The Stanley Cup Qualifiers featuring the 16 teams that are contesting best-of-five series to determine the eight teams advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, commonly referred to as the qualifying round, will begin on Saturday, Aug. 1, with five games: three in Toronto (Carolina vs. NY Rangers, Florida vs. NY Islanders and Montreal vs. Pittsburgh) and two in Edmonton (Chicago vs. Edmonton, Calgary vs. Winnipeg).
The Stanley Cup Qualifiers featuring the top four teams from each conference to determine seeding in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, commonly referred to as the round robin, will begin on Sunday, Aug. 2, with two games, one in each hub city: Boston vs. Philadelphia (at Toronto) and Colorado vs. St. Louis (at Edmonton).
A complete broadcast schedule will be released in the coming days.
For statistical purposes only, all games from the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers (round robin and qualifying rounds) are considered part of the 2020 postseason. Accordingly, all skater/goalie/team statistics accumulated in these games will be included in the 2020 player and team postseason stats. Achievements from these games and series will be included on Records.NHL.com.
Teams participating in a best-of-five series during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers are considered to have made the postseason and participated in a postseason series.
NHL DRAFT LOTTERY, PHASE 2, AND NHL DRAFT
NHL Draft Lottery, Phase 2
Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery will take place between the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and the start of the First Round on Aug. 10. Phase 2 will assign the first overall pick for the 2020 NHL Draft to one of the eight qualifying round teams that fail to advance.
The 2020 NHL Draft is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10.