NHL players finally have the green light to begin skating and training at their home facilities — but don’t expect to see any significant change on the local front just yet.
Nearly every member of the Winnipeg Jets have returned to their off-season home in other parts of Canada, the United States and Europe. And current COVID-19 restrictions requiring a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon return means they aren’t exactly rushing to get back here right now.
As of next Monday, teams are permitted to welcome players in small groups of six or less for both on and off-ice activities for the second phase of the NHL’s return-to-play protocol. A limited number of club staff can also be present under strict guidelines which include extensive safety regulations and testing. Participation is voluntary.
“All necessary preparations for Phase 2, including those that require Player participation (education, diagnostic testing, scheduling for medicals, etc.), can begin immediately,” the NHL said Thursday night in a release.
While this may be an important step for the potential resumption of hockey later this summer, it’s a rather anti-climactic one in Winnipeg with almost no players in town to take advantage. As a result, the status quo will continue.
“We have yet to determine a date upon which to open our facilities for phase two,” Scott Brown, the Jets senior director of communications, said Friday.
Instead, players are waiting for more details to emerge about the league’s return-to-play protocol before deciding how to proceed. Phase 3 is the start of a modified training camp, in which all players would have to be present. No firm date has been set, but there is speculation it could be on or around July 10. That would lead to Phase 4, which is the 24-team Stanley Cup tournament that would be held in two so-called hub cities and begin around the end of July, running perhaps into early October.
If all goes according to plan, that would mean all Jets skaters would have to be back in the ‘Peg by June 26 in order to abide by the two-week quarantine and be ready to hit the ice for camp.
However, the NHL and many of the Canadian teams have been in constant dialogue with the federal and provincial governments and health officials to see if there could be an exception made for returning players. This is a major obstacle in a city such as Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto, which are all on the league’s short-list of potential hub cities.
Failing that, there’s always the possibility of moving training camp south of the border, which is something Canucks general manager Jim Benning recently said was a possibility. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, speaking with media last week, said that wasn’t being considered for his club at this time.
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