NHL announces framework for Phase 2 of Return To Play initiative

The league is targeting the start of Phase 2 for some time in early June

Brayton Wilson
May 25, 2020 - 12:20 pm

The National Hockey announced on Monday the framework for Phase 2 of its Return To Play initiative that will permitted players to return their team's training facilities for on-ice and off-ice voluntary small-group individualized training activities.

In a memorandum sent out by the league, it says that the target date for the commencement of Phase 2 is set for some time in early June, though no firm dates were given as to when and how long this Phase will last. The league also says it is continuing to monitor developments in each market and it may adjust the timing of the Phase 2 decision if necessary.

According to the general description of Phase 2 in the memorandum:

"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 (i.e., maximum of six (6) Players at any one time, plus a limited number of Club staff), to engage in individualized training activities on a voluntary basis, as set forth in detail below. This activity will be permitted only in those jurisdictions where the applicable health authorities have sufficiently relaxed local restrictions to permit such gatherings. Clubs whose local health authorities would allow for the reopening of Club facilities will be required to consult with and seek approval from the League prior to any reopening of Club facilities. In those jurisdictions which continue to restrict or prohibit such activity from occurring, and in order to address potential competitive concerns, the League will work with those Clubs to facilitate alternative arrangements, if desired. Further, Clubs are required to comply with the public health mandates and recommended best practices of the CDC and/or Public Health Agency of Canada (“Health Canada”) applicable to them and the facility in which Phase 2 activities are to take place, including any changes to such recommendations that may take place after the commencement of Phase 2. Clubs who are unable to allow access to Players in your facility as contemplated by Phase 2 or who are concerned that their operations do not satisfy public health recommendations shall notify Bill Daly or Julie Grand, so that we can work with your Club to determine whether alternative arrangements are appropriate or necessary."

This memorandum issued by the NHL includes 21 pages of guidelines and other bits of information critical for carrying out Phase 2. Some of the main issues addressed in this document includes the travel of the players back to the team's home city, testing for players and personnel, temperature and symptom checks, and more.

When it comes to travel for the players back to their home cities, teams will assist players with travel arrangements and will be provided hotel during Phase 2 and Phase 3, including family-appropriate accommodations if necessary. These players will be reimbursed for reasonable travel expenses up to a maximum of $1,500, while American Hockey League players will be reimbursed for all reasonable expenses if called up for the playoffs.

While some players and personnel will have to serve a 14-day quarantine regardless of the mode of travel, anyone using public transportation to return must serve a 14-day self-quarantine. However, teams cannot require players already sheltering in place outside of their home city to return so that they can complete a quarantine in time to participate in Phase 2.

As for testing, asymptomatic player and personnel will be tested in the context of excess testing capability, as to not deprive health care workers and other individuals from necessary testing. Laboratory-based RT-PCR testing will be conducted to all players and personnel designated to have "Player Access" 48 hours prior to returning to the team facilities. Results of those tests will be readily available within 24 hours.

If testing is not available at the start of Phase 2 but players wish to participate in activities, they must undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.

Each team will record symptom and temperature checks on a daily basis and not more than two hours prior to a player or personnel's "Players Access" entry to the facility. The players and personnel will be provided an app for a standardized self-screening checklist, with these checks being administered at home before departing for the facility. Teams must also administer separate system and temperature checks at the entrance of the facility before players and personnel are allowed to enter.

Similar checks will be conducted on site for all other "No Player Access" club personnel.

All players must undergo pre-participation medical evaluation (PPME) prior to participating in Phase 2 activities, which includes:

  • Medical history review and focused examination
  • Orthopedic history review and focused examination
  • ECG
    • Anyone confirmed or suspected of having had COVID-19 shall be further investigated with echocardiology and high-sensitivity troponin, and consultation with a cardiologist.
  • Post-COVID cardiac questionnaire and investigation based on a provided checklist

Also before the start of Phase 2, all teams' medical directors and head athletic trainers will conduct a remote educational meeting for the players regarding COVID-19, the Phase 2 protocol, risks involving Phase 2 and other Phases later on, obligations to comply with provisions of each protocol, and the opportunity for asked questions regarding the current situation.

If a player happens to develop symptoms during Phase 2, they will have to notify team medical staffers, self-isolate and be evaluated by the team physician. If the player happens to test positive for COVID-19, the team physician will designating the player as “unfit to play” and will be removed from training, practice or play. His condition will be treated as a hockey-related injury under the collective bargaining agreement, unless it is established that the player contracted COVID-19 outside of hockey-related activities.

All players and personnel shall immediately notify team medical staff if they suspect to have coming into contact with someone that has COVID-19, and contact tracing will be conducted by the team immediately after a positive test result.

"In the Phase 2 environment of strict monitoring, testing (if applicable), regular cleaning and disinfecting, and adherence to the measures in this protocol, subject to any applicable local health regulations, it is not anticipated that an isolated case(s) of COVID-19 would necessitate widescale quarantine of a Club; however, testing of Players in the same Player’s training session and “Player Access” Club personnel may be appropriate, as determined by Club medical staff in consultation with the Club’s infectious disease consultant and local health authorities."

As for permitted activities during Phase 2, there is the opportunity for “player-only” non-contact skates without any coaches, skating coaches or other staff members. Ice time shall be divided equally between the skaters within each group, with goaltenders allowed the possibility of additional ice time. 

When players are not participating in on-ice activities, they will be permitted to utilize the exercise and weight room equipment, or receive treatment from team medical and training staff with the maximum of six players, one athletic trainer and one strength and conditioning coach permitted.

Players participating in Phase 2 are not allowed to work out or skate at any public facility and may not organize any group skates outside of team facilities.

You can check out more of the NHL's memorandum regarding Phase 2 here:

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