In a gradual manner, the NHL is inching closer to returning to action later this summer as the Nashville Predators and rest of the league moves into the next phase.
So much unknown has clouded over the NHL’s stoppage in play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March it’s been unclear if the NHL will actually be able to complete a 2019-20 postseason.
Things are getting somewhat clearer now as the NHL is moving into “Phase 2” , which allows players to return to team facilities to begin training. It doesn’t mean that teams can hold any type of full training camp.
However, this is a step in the right direction and signals that the NHL is staying on schedule in their hopes of crowning a Stanley Cup champion, which will undoubtedly delay the start of next season.
Phase 2 completely voluntary
There’s really no indication on which particular players will be opting to train at team facilities. This is completely voluntary, and the logistics are complicated due to international borders.
The official start of the next phase is Monday, June 8th. I suspect that this will be particularly beneficial for players who needs extra preparation due to rehabbing injuries or needing to make up for lost time.
This situation has impacted everyone differently, so some players will feel the need to use this training option on team facilities more than others.
Take for instance Predators’ forward Matt Duchene. He’s an experienced veteran that may might need less time to get back up to speed as opposed to a younger player who needs every bit of formal workouts and training that they can get.
Groups of six or fewer players can participate in these training sessions. For the players who haven’t skated in a while, this will be very beneficial to them.
Coaches cannot be on the ice while the players are skating. They can coach from the bench, but not be skating with the team.
Also for players who just need to build that chemistry again on the ice by skating with teammates should be beneficial. But it’s not going to have near the impact that a full training camp will have, which should happen in the next phase.
The NHL’s “Phase 3” can begin no sooner than July 10. That’s when the training camps can begin, and once that is officially announced we’ll have a much more concrete date on when the qualifying rounds can actually occur.
Deciding on the hub cities
There’s also two hub cities still being considered to host these games. It’s been reported that ten cities are being considered, but Nashville isn’t one of them.
Also, per NBC Sports, an announcement on the two hub cities should come in the next couple of weeks.
The matching of Eastern or Western Conference teams in Eastern Conference or Western Conference cities isn’t an absolutely necessity. They’re going to select the two cities that make the most sense, regardless of which conference they’re in.
There hasn’t been an official announcement when the Predators will begin participating in the next phase. It’s completely voluntary and the choice of team and players on when to come back to this phase.
This is a small step in the right direction of getting hockey back, but there’s still so much that has to go right for hockey to return to play in July or August.
A lot of sports are going to be coming back at similar times with how this is all lining up. The NBA has their own unique plan to return to action, and it’ll be ramping up right around the same time as the NHL plans to be.
The NHL has been very meticulous in how they’re approaching this, and that’s commendable. The reseeding of teams after the qualifying round is a smart decision, and no asterisk will be needed for whichever team comes out as the Stanley Cup winner.