NHL and NHLPA Tentative Agreement
The NHL and NHLPA have a tentative agreement on the return-to-play and the new CBA. Photo by Steve Marcus.

People have been waiting months for the return on hockey. If the tentative agreement between the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) holds, then it will be soon. This agreement is regarding two things, when to return and the collective bargaining agreement.

NHL deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, told ESPN that the hub cities will be in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta. The Easter Conference will play in Toronto, and the Western Conference will play in Edmonton. The Stanley Cup final that is scheduled for early Oct., would be played in Edmonton.

The current plan is to move to Phase 3 (training camps) by July 13. Then Phase 4 would be the 24-team tournament. The players would travel around July 25-26. This means that the league would resume on Aug. 1.

Players do have to follow strict guidelines if they want to play. According to the document, “all individuals shall maintain physical distancing (a minimum of 6-foot distance) at all times throughout Phase 4, to the extent possible.” This includes any means of transportation, restaurants and any other social outings. The league will provide face coverings for all players, but they are welcome to bring their own. They must be worn at all times unless exercising. Coaches will be allowed to take off the face coverings while on the bench.

If teams do not adhere to the rules, they could be financially penalized and have a potential loss of draft picks.

Players do have the option to opt-out without question or penalty. They have a three-day window after the agreement on the package to opt-out if they desire to do so. Some may do this since the players’ families will not be able to join them until the conference finals.

The safety protocols and plan for the return-to-play will be subjected to multiple rounds of voting. The NHLPA Executive Committee, consisting of one representative from all 31 teams, would have to agree to the terms. Then the entire package of protocols and the CBA would move to the full membership vote including all NHL players. Then lastly, the NHL board of governors would have to ratify the package.

For the tentative agreement on the CBA, it has been extended four years to last until the 2025-26 season. This would include an agreed-upon flat salary cap of $81.5 million next season. Then remain until the league can make $4.86 billion in revenue, which was the projected amount for this season before the pause. The players would also have to accept a one-time 10% salary deferral by next season that would be paid back throughout three seasons beginning in 2022-23. As well as, capped escrow withholdings each season, starting at 20% next season. Then it would eventually fall to 6% by the end of the CBA. Lastly, there would be a return to the Winter Olympics in 2022 and 2026, if a deal is met between the NHL and the International Olympic Committee.

Between the tentative agreement on the package and the eagerness to return-to-play, the deal should be officialized soon.