The NHL has issued a memorandum detailing its phased return to sport protocol, setting out a long and stringent set of criteria that must be fulfilled by teams as they exit self-quarantine (Phase 1) to resume training activities.

Based on the current information available, the league said it is 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. 

“We are continuing to monitor developments in each of the club’s markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate, following discussion with all relevant parties,” it advised. “As we have stated repeatedly, the health of the players and club personnel is our top priority, and that will dictate how Phase 2, and any progression thereafter, may evolve. 

“We again emphasize that player participation in Phase 2 is strictly voluntary. In addition, clubs are not permitted to require players to return to the club’s home city so they can complete a quarantine requirement in time to participate in Phase 2.” 

In Phase 2, the first step in resumption of League activities will be to allow clubs to reopen each of their training facilities in the club’s home city, to permit gatherings of small groups of players (maximum of six players at any one time, plus a limited number of club staff), to engage in individualized training activities on a voluntary basis

Additionally, clubs will be required to establish a process to record symptoms and conduct temperature checks on a daily basis, while all Players must undergo a pre-participation medical evaluation (PPME) and Exhibit 25A clearance prior to participating in any Phase 2 activities. 

Turning to permitted activities, the NHL stipulated “player-only” non-contact skates. No coaches, skating coaches, other club employees or club contracted representatives may participate in any on-ice sessions. 

The release of the protocol follows recent news that the NHL is looking at circa nine different places that could accommodate around 12 teams per location as it examines possible options for resuming the season.

But Commissioner Gary Bettman remains unsure on timing, saying: “We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.”