NHL hockey this summer. NHL players in the Olympics. NHL labour peace until 2026.
And it all starts Monday.
The NHL players and the league’s owners each passed two complex, interlinked deals: one that outlines the return to play during the coronavirus pandemic that will crown a Stanley Cup champion this summer, and the other an extension to the collective bargaining agreement that addresses long-standing issues regarding how much players get paid.
“This agreement is a meaningful step forward for the players and owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time,” said Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHL Players’ Association.
On Monday, all players will be allowed to report to their team’s training camps in the 24 cities that will be in the summertime Stanley Cup tournament. The bottom seven teams in the 31-team league from the 2019-20 season will not participate.
On July 26, the 12 teams from the Eastern Conference will come to Toronto and the 12 from the Western Conference will fly to Edmonton for a couple of exhibition games, followed by the beginning of the tournament. The Leafs will face Columbus in a best-of-five series to advance to the round of 16.
The federal government, the governments of Ontario and Alberta and the local governments in Toronto and Edmonton cleared the way for the players not to have to quarantine individually, the way anybody else coming to Canada would have to.
Instead, players and other team officials will be allowed to quarantine together with movements limited to hotels, practice facilities and game facilities, with a few team events like golf.
On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended the waiver.
“We went to the federal government, they approved it. Our municipalities, city of Toronto, approved it,” said Ford. “(The NHL has) very stringent rules and regulations for their players. I even thought, when they told me they were getting tested every single day — I’m not a medical professional — I don’t think they need testing every day. Every third day or whatever. But man, they’re tough on the players.
“I’ll tell you, I think people would like to see a few hockey games on television. I don’t think it will be too bad.”
The collective bargaining agreement was also approved, a four-year extension that will see the NHL negotiate with the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation. It also sees sweeping changes to how the players are paid, including limits on how much the players pay back to owners if hockey-related revenue targets are not met.
The Star has learned a key component of the deal is salary protection for the 2020-21 season, now slated to begin in December. The players will be paid for next season if it is played or not, or if it is played to empty seats.
As for this season, Hotel X, on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, will host the top five teams in the East according to points percentage from the coronavirus-shortened season: Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The other seven teams, including the Maple Leafs, will be housed in the Fairmont Royal York on Front Street.
Rosters will being limited to 30 skaters for training camp while allowing for an unlimited number of goalies per team. Participation is limited to players who are eligible for the playoffs. COVID-19 testing will be required for players, team personnel and others who will be in the vicinity of players (ice and building maintenance, security, etc.) 48 hours prior to returning to team facilities and every other day after that.
When the teams come to Toronto and Edmonton, rosters will be limited to 31 players (including goalies), with a maximum of 52 individuals per team (including ownership, players, coaches, executives and staff) being permitted inside the secure zone. There will be daily testing, symptom checks and temperature screenings for each person.
Here are a few key things to know about the NHL’s return to play:
Start times will be staggered. The start times for the 10 days of Stanley Cup qualifiers in Toronto (Eastern Conference games) will be: 12 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. The start times in Edmonton (Western Conference games) will be 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 10:30 p.m. (All times Eastern.)
The Stanley Cup qualifiers, featuring the 16 teams that are contesting best-of-five series to determine the eight teams advancing to the Stanley Cup playoffs, will begin on Aug. 1, with five games: three in Toronto (Carolina vs. N.Y. Rangers, Florida vs. N.Y. Islanders and Montreal vs. Pittsburgh) and two in Edmonton (Chicago vs. Edmonton, Calgary vs. Winnipeg).
The top four teams from each conference playing to determine seeding will begin on Aug. 2, with two games, one in each hub city: Boston vs. Philadelphia (at Toronto) and Colorado vs. St. Louis (at Edmonton).
For statistical purposes only, all games from the qualifiers (round robin and qualifying rounds) are considered part of the 2020 post-season. Accordingly, all skater/goalie/team statistics accumulated in these games will be included in the 2020 player and team post-season stats. Achievements from these games and series will be included on records.nhl.com.
In other words, teams participating in the best-of-five series re considered to have made the post-season and participated in a post-season series.
The Lottery, Phase 2
Remember that one of the teams eliminated in the qualifying round will also win the first overall pick in the NHL draft. All eight eliminated teams have a 12.5 per cent chance at that pick. The lottery for that pick will be Aug. 10 (between the qualifying round and the start of the first round).
The 2020 NHL draft is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10.
The biggest issue was escrow, the amount of a player’s paycheque that is held back each year in case the league fails to meet revenue projections. Both sides believe they have found a way to get that percentage as low as possible.
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To do so, the salary cap will be held to $81.5 million (U.S.) until revenues surpass $4.8 billion. Escrow will start at 20 per cent in 2020-21, 14 per cent in 2021-22 (with provisions for a different number based on revenue), then it will lock in at 10 per cent in 2022-23, and finish the final three years of the extension at six per cent.
- The league will negotiate NHL player appearances with the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation.
- The CBA features increased health benefits and pension benefits.
- The league minimum salaries rise to $775,000 by 2026 (from $700,000).
- The entry level maximum salary rises to $1 million by 2026 (from $925,000).
- The playoff fund is $32 million (up from $17 million) this year. It will revert down to $20 million next year, and up to $24 million in 25-26.
- No-trade clauses follow players to their new teams.
- Games missed due to suspension now count toward pensions.
Monday: Training camps open
July 26: Travel to hub cities
July 28-30: Exhibition games
Aug. 1: Stanley Cup qualifying round begins
Aug. 10: Second part of draft lottery
Aug. 11: First round of playoffs begin
Aug. 25: Second round of playoffs begin
Sept. 8: Conference finals begin
Sept. 22: Stanley Cup final begins
Oct. 4: Last possible date of final
Oct. 9-10: NHL draft