I expected Monday to be quiet on the hockey front, since it's Memorial Day in the U.S.
But the NHL surprised me by sharing its 22-page "Phased Return To Sport Protocol" memo first thing Monday morning.
You can check out the entire document here
. It covers "Phase 2" of the return-to-play plan, which still does not have a definite start date.
"We are now targeting a date in early June for a transition to Phase 2. However, it has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last."
Obviously, there's a lot to go through here. A few key points:
• participation in Phase 2 is strictly voluntary
• teams are not permitted to require players return to their cities in order to complete a quarantine period before taking part in Phase 2 workout
• all players who travel by commercial air or public rail must serve a 14-day quarantine period before using team facilities; quarantines will also apply where required by local health authorities, which is the case across Canada, and for players returning from ‘high risk’ environments, no matter how they travel
• players who don't have permanent homes in their NHL city, including recalled AHL players, will be put up in hotels, and can bring their families if they choose to do so; they'll also be set up with rental cars, because they'll be forbidden from car-pooling or using public transit, ride-share or taxis to come to the rink
• testing "must be done in the context of excess testing capacity, so as to not deprive health care workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals from necessary diagnostic tests"
• at this point, individual clubs are responsible for securing approval from their local health agencies that this level of testing is available; the league says it's working to put a comprehensive testing program in place but it sounds like they're not there yet
• daily symptom and temperature checks would be required each time a player or team staffer arrives at the facility
• players who live in other NHL markets are permitted to use those facilities rather than travelling to their team's city; for example, I imagine that would mean that we might see players like Brendan Gallagher and Milan Lucic skating here in Vancouver, while Tyler Toffoli could skate in L.A. Clubs are permitted to deny requests from non-team players if it impedes their ability to provide services to their own players.
• players can only work out in small groups of six or less; permitted activities include non-contact skates with players only, weight training that doesn’t require a spotter, and other cardio and circuit-type training in the gym, as long as social distancing is maintained
• once a group is set, those players will continue to train together, in order to try to limit exposure to other people; the league is also suggesting that each group have its own separate support staff, with the suggestion that they bring in staff from their AHL club if more people are needed: "During Phase 2, Clubs must, to the extent possible, assign a unique Athletic Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Coach, and Equipment Manager, respectively, to each group of six (6) Players, so as to limit cross-exposure among groups."
• players will only be permitted in the facility during their assigned shifts; there will be time allocated for cleaning and disinfecting between each shift
• participating players may not skate or work out at any public facility, and cannot organize their own skates
• coaches are not permitted to participate in on-ice work, and will only be able to observe once a certain amount of time has passed
• 'No Player Access' team staff will be permitted in the facility if necessary, but will not be allowed to enter the same areas where the players are, or to touch anything that might be touched by players or the staff members who will have 'Player Access.'
• No outsiders!
"The following individuals are prohibited from entering the Club facilities during Phase 2:
b. Player agents
c. Massage therapists
e. Player Performance Personnel
f. Player’s family members
g. Any other person(s)"
• players and staff will be expected to respect social distancing guidelines, except in the case of necessary medical treatment; "Players shall be discouraged from socializing with one another in close contact while at (or outside of) the Club’s facilities."
• no team meals; players will be able to pick up pre-packaged meals to take home and eat; the only food that they'll be allowed to eat at the rink is single-serving products like granola bars and power bars
• no hot tubs, cold tubs or saunas allowed
Right up front, the league is asking for feedback from the clubs on whether they'd be able to get up and running under these protocols. There was some talk a few weeks ago that the league didn't want to start allowing facilities to open up until at least a majority would be able to do so under the rules established by their local health authorities. I guess they feel like they're now at least close to crossing that desired threshold.
I feel like these protocols are pretty strict — and they're certainly doing all they can to get through this next phase without any positive tests, or especially without seeing a spread of infection. I'm very curious to see how many players choose to return to Vancouver and take advantage of the opportunity to work out in their home environment — and in a location that has fared pretty well throughout this crisis.
For the moment, Sportsnet has teed up another fun Canucks playoff series for us to relive. Game 1 of the 1994 Western Conference Final between the Canucks and the Toronto Maple Leafs goes Monday night at 5 p.m. PT.
Yes, the Leafs were in the Western Conference back then, and the series was a 2-3-2 format, with the first two games played in Toronto. Should be a fun trip down memory lane!
And I'll close with this link: Michael Buble's appearance on After Hours this week with Scott Oake and Louie DeBrusk. It's a solid half hour of baked-in fandom from a 44-year-old with an encyclopedic appreciation of the Canucks throughout their entire history. His performance skills come through with his dramatic storytelling and unabashed enthusiasm — and I'm pretty sure he said that he has an ice rink in his house here in Vancouver, and has been skating during the pandemic...
This is a lot of fun if you have half an hour to spare today:
I also loved the part where he talked about being neighbours with Cliff Ronning — and how, to this day, if he happens past when Ronning's outside mowing the lawn or something, he still gets excited. "That's Cliff Ronning!"