It’s all systems go for NHL’s return to ice

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The melodious sound you heard Monday was angels singing the Hallelujah chorus while doing donuts on a Zamboni at the nearest hockey rink.

At least that’s the interpretation that was portrayed when official word made its way down the pipeline that the NHL and the NHL Players Association have tentatively agreed to a Return to Play plan that is more than just the league eventually concluding this season.

While you get said image of angels riding a Zamboni out of your head, understand that the greatest victory between the league and the players isn’t just the fact that dates are conditionally set for resuming action — training camps are set for July 13, teams travel to hub cities (still not official) on July 26, and game action gets underway on Aug. 1.

On this day, commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA chief Don Fehr are to be commended for their tireless work of not only ensuring that the Stanley Cup will be awarded in the coming months, but by establishing the framework of a memorandum of understanding that there will be a four-year extension of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement through the 2025-26 season.

A work stoppage in hockey is the albatross-like hurdle that never seems to go away. Keep in mind that none of this means anything until the players make it official with a vote. As of Tuesday, that vote hasn’t happened yet; that’s expected to come this week. But once finalized, this will ensure the NHL runs for the next six seasons, there will not be any stoppage to impede Seattle’s debut in 2021 and everybody gets to enjoy the frozen biscuit getting passed around without a care in the world.

But that’s the future, which can’t be obtained until the present is completed.

Training camp is set to open Monday with the 24 teams taking part in their hub cities before they eventually migrate to, likely, Toronto and Edmonton to begin play at the beginning of next month.

This won’t be your traditional camp. Teams will carry no more than 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies to ensure all bases are covered as North America continues to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Whether or not two weeks of training camp will even be enough remains to be seen. Despite players skating collectively during Phase 2, getting back into game shape might take longer than what should be expected. The round-robin teams should benefit greatly from this format, as opposed to those who will jump right into the best-of-5 series.

At the end of the day, while the global climate hasn’t produced the most perfect situation to have this resolved, it’s the best that could’ve been done. The situation is made better knowing not only the current season is about to be saved, but the immediate future (and even the long-term ramifications with a 32nd franchise coming) is also saved.

All parties should be proud for how they handled this. Get excited, folks. Hockey is coming back, for better or worse.

About the Author
Danny Webster

Danny Webster

Danny Webster is an NHL columnist at Gaming Today. He is a graduate of UNLV whose work also appears on NHL.com, Vegas Hockey Now, and SB Nation.

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