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NHL Return to Play Report: Rules, Testing, Rosters

Phase 3/4 reportedly finalized, CBA coming soon

San Jose Sharks v Colorado Avalanche
DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 16: Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche drinks water during warm ups prior to the game against the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center on January 16, 2020 in Denver, Colorado.
Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

After weeks of promise, after months of anticipation, we are finally beginning to get concrete plans for Phase 3/4 of the NHL’s Return to Play Protocol. Sunday night saw a slew of leaks to the national NHL media on Twitter, providing some more specifics for what training camps and the 2019-20 NHL Playoffs are going to look like.

Let’s go through it all.

First and foremost, Toronto will be the Hub City in the East. Edmonton will be the Hub City in the West. This is not confirmed but it’s all but certain.

Health and Player Rights

  • There are strong penalties for any player that leaves the Bubble without permission (permissions include medical reasons or extenuating personal circumstances). It is possible for players to be removed from the Playoffs and teams punished with fines or losses of draft picks.
  • Players will be allowed to opt out of the Return to Play Protocol. There is uncertainty in terms of when this deadline will be set, it’ll be something akin to at least three days after the NHLPA general vote approves the Protocol.
  • Any player who tests positive will be deemed “unfit to play” and immediately quarantined (more of these details in the next section). COVID-19 positive tests will be deemed a “hockey-related injury” and will follow the CBA with regards to insurance and rights and all that.
  • Coaches will not be required to wear masks on the bench.
  • Players do not need to wear face coverings during exercises or while they are on the ice. Masks are “required for all individuals who enter a club training facility for Phase 3.” Masks are also required when social distancing cannot be maintained within training facilities.
  • Players are not required to skate in public rinks during Phase 3 or 4.

Testing and Sanitation

  • Testing will be rigorous and it looks like the NHL has found a lot of them. Everyone in the bubble will be tested every day. Frank Seravalli has the details on who and how many tests could be done per day once the playoffs begin.
  • 52 people allowed per team. This might be coincidental, but there are a maximum of 52 names each Stanley Cup Champion is allowed to have engraved on the Cup the year they win it.
  • Surfaces all over the ice (glass, benches, floors, boards) will be cleaned between periods and between games. Water bottles will also be personalized and separated.
  • Players who leave the bubble will be forced to quarantine upon return. Only four consecutive negative tests (one per day) will allow the player out of quarantine. These regulations could be longer in certain situations.

Players, Staff, and Families

  • Rosters will officially be 30 skaters and unlimited goalies. All players must be on an NHL contract for the 2019-20 season. No players on tryouts or whose entry-level contracts start next season.
  • Families of the final four teams will be allowed into the bubble once those teams are determined.
  • A nice addition, “When NHL players are away from home during Phase 4, team personnel will assist with grocery delivery and errand delivery for their families, as needed.”
  • “Every NHL team is required to bring at least one content creator/social media employee with them inside the bubble during Phase 4.”


Are you satisfied by the rules shared so far?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Yeah, looks good
    (211 votes)
  • 6%
    I’m worried about one or two decisions on here
    (19 votes)
  • 5%
    Would like to see what more they have
    (15 votes)
  • 2%
    I’m concerned
    (7 votes)
  • 9%
    Cancel The Playoffs
    (27 votes)
279 votes total Vote Now