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NHL games resume Aug. 1 in Edmonton, Toronto

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Jul 10, 2020 at 7:22 pm PDT

SPORTSNET — The NHL will resume play on Aug. 1 in Edmonton and Toronto after the players’ association announced Friday its membership has ratified a new collective bargaining agreement.

Play will resume with a five-game schedule of Stanley Cup playoff qualifiers on Aug. 1. The two hub cities have been confirmed as Edmonton and Toronto.

The Vancouver Canucks will play the Minnesota Wild in Edmonton on Aug. 2.

“Today, the NHL and the NHLPA announced a significant agreement that addresses the uncertainty everyone is dealing with, the framework for the completion of the 2019-20 season and the foundation for the continued long-term growth of our League,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says in a release.

That paves the way for training camps to open Monday in 24 cities — more than four months after the season was paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teams will travel from their home markets on July 26 to either Toronto or Edmonton. The entire playoff tournament is scheduled to be completed in no more than 62 days, producing a champion by the first week of October.

Games have been scheduled on a staggered basis, for continuous action. The start times for the 10 days of Stanley Cup eastern qualifiers in Toronto will noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET.

Western Conference games in Edmonton will be played at 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET.

When it’s all said and done, the 2019-20 NHL season could span a full calendar year.

Players had to agree to extensive protocols governing camps and the bubble environment around where games are played, requiring them to be separated from their families for up to six weeks this summer.

They also had to agree to terms on a revamped collective agreement, which will see them defer 10 per cent of next year’s salary, while the upper limit of the cap is held firm at $81.5-million for as long as it takes NHL business to return to normal.

The new deal should see players return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026, while achieving modest gains to the league minimum salary, the amount they can be paid on entry-level contracts and how much escrow can be deducted from future paycheques.

By guaranteeing labour peace for at least six more seasons, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association have also created a stable environment to try and wait out the storm brought on by the coronavirus.

The first steps will be taken in a made-for-TV tournament played with no fans in the buildings. The 12 returning Western Conference teams will report to Edmonton for games at Rogers Arena, while the 12 left standing in the East head to Toronto for games at Scotiabank Arena.

Up to three games per day in each city will be played to start. It’s the first time the NHL has held its playoffs entirely on Canadian soil since 1925, according to Sportsnet Stats.

The only question still hanging over the NHL’s plan is a fundamental one: Can this be done safely? Great lengths will be taken to try and keep an outbreak from affecting the participants, which is something that could cause the entire thing to be called off.

Thirty-five NHL players produced positive COVID-19 tests between June 8 and July 6, according to information announced by the league. That was with only about 53 per cent of the returning players getting tested on a regular basis.

That number will increase once everyone is tested every second day once camps open.

Players also have the option to opt-out of the restart without penalty, provided they inform their teams in writing by 5 p.m. ET on Monday. They aren’t required to give a reason for doing so.

The NHL paused play on March 12.