NHL, NHLPA ratify Return To Play plan and CBA extension


It's game on for the National Hockey League this summer.

It was officially announced on Friday that the NHL and the NHL Players' Association have voted to ratify the Memo of Understanding for both the league's Return To Play plan, as well as a new extension of the collective bargaining agreement.

NHL and NHLPA ratify four-year CBA extension and Return to Play Plan. #StanleyCup Qualifiers to begin August 1. https://t.co/IErZJ2hifT pic.twitter.com/f5HgirRFLB

— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) July 10, 2020

After the NHLPA's Executive Board approved of both agreements on Tuesday, it came down to a full NHLPA membership vote, as well as the vote from the NHL Board of Governors. After a full 48 hours of voting from the NHLPA, TSN hockey reporter Frank Seravalli says the membership voted 502-135 in favor of the full CBA and the Return To Play plan. The NHL's Board of Governors also met on Friday and voted in favor of approving both agreements.

Hearing #NHLPA membership voted 502-135 in favor of ratifying full CBA and RTP package. That's nearly 79 per cent in favor.

— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 10, 2020

Seravalli also reports that the NHL Board of Governors' vote was unanimously in favor of ratifying the CBA and the Return To Play plan.

“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 said in a league statement. “I thank NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr and Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider, the more than 700 NHL Players - particularly those who worked on our Return to Play Committee -  and the NHL’s Board of Governors for coming together under extraordinary circumstances for the good of our game. While we have all worked very hard to try to address the risks of COVID-19, we know that health and safety are and will continue to be our priorities. We know that all of our fans are excited about our return to the ice next month and that has been our goal since we paused our season on March 12.”

"This agreement is a meaningful step forward for the players and owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time.  This would not have happened but for the enormous contributions that the players made throughout, particularly those who served on the Negotiating and Return to Play Committees, as well as those on the Executive Board,” said NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr in the league statement.  “I also thank Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the NHL staff for their efforts towards finding solutions to the problems we face.  Most importantly, we are pleased to be able to bring NHL hockey back to the fans.  We look forward to the NHL’s continued growth here in North America and on the world stage.”

Along with this announcement, the league has confirmed that the cities of Edmonton, Alberta and Toronto, Ontario, Canada will be the two hub cities for the Return To Play format, with Edmonton also hosting the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final. Toronto will host the 12 Eastern Conference teams taking part in the playoffs, while Edmonton will host the 12 Western Conference teams involved.

Here is a look at the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round, as well as the teams involved in the seeding round-robin tournament:



  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning
  3. Washington Capitals
  4. Philadelphia Flyers

Qualifying Round:

5 - Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 - Montreal Canadiens

6 - Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 - New York Rangers

7 - New York Islanders vs. 10 - Florida Panthers

8 - Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 - Columbus Blue Jackets



  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Colorado Avalanche
  3. Vegas Golden Knights
  4. Dallas Stars

Qualifying Round:

5 - Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 - Chicago Blackhawks

6 - Nashville Predators vs. 11 - Arizona Coyotes

7 - Vancouver Canucks vs.  10 - Minnesota Wild

8 - Calgary Flames vs. 9 - Winnipeg Jets


The league said that the puck will drop again for the Return To Play format on Saturday, Aug. 1 with a five-game schedule to kick off the qualifying round. 

These games in the play-in qualifying round are scheduled on a staggered basis, with games for the 10-day period set to take place at 12 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET in Toronto and 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET in Edmonton. These games may fluctuate by up to 30 minutes during the qualifying round.

The complete schedule of games can be found here:

Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule https://t.co/xG61pfDIw0

— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) July 10, 2020

As for the broadcast schedule for these games, the league said that a complete schedule will be released in the coming days.

For these games in the qualifying round and round-robin, the league is considering the stats as part of the 2020 postseason.

Teams participating in a best-of-five series during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers are considered to have made the postseason and participated in a postseason series

The league also announced a number of key upcoming dates on Friday for both the Return To Play plan, as well as the upcoming offseason leading up to the 2020-21 season:

  • Monday, July 13: Commencement of Phase 3 (Formal start of training camps)
  • Sunday, July 26: Teams travel to their respective hub city
  • Tuesday, July 28 - Thursday, July 30: Teams play one exhibition game before the commencement of Phase 4
  • Saturday, Aug. 1: Commencement of Phase 4 (Qualifying round and seeding round-robin)
  • Monday, Aug. 10: Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery*
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11: First round of Stanley Cup Playoffs begin
  • Tuesday, Aug. 25: Second round of Stanley Cup Playoffs begin*
  • Tuesday, Sept. 8: Conference Finals begin*
  • Tuesday, Sept. 22: Stanley Cup Final begins*
  • Sunday, Oct. 4: Last possible game of the Stanley Cup Final*
  • Friday, Oct. 9: Round 1 of the 2020 NHL Draft*
  • Saturday, Oct. 10: Rounds 2-7 of the 2020 NHL Draft*

* - Dates are subject to change.

In addition, Sportsnet hockey reporter Chris Johnston says that the NHL Free Agency period will either open on Friday, Oct. 9 or seven days after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final. That would put the latest for the free agency period to open as Sunday, Oct. 11

Free agency for the 2020-21 NHL season will either be Oct. 9 or seven days following the Stanley Cup Final (as late as Oct. 11).That means we could have free agency open the same day as the first round of the entry draft is held.

— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 10, 2020

Here are a couple of other reported key dates for the 2020 offseason:

  • Thursday, Nov. 17: Opening of training camps for all 31 teams
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1: Opening of 2020-21 regular season

Both of these dates are subject to change. 

Here are some of the important protocols that were reported on Monday to be touched upon in the 71-page Memo of Understanding that teams and supporting staff will have to follow:


Phase 3 protocols:

  • Each team shall provide the NHL with their list of participating players by no later than Monday, July 13 at 5 p.m.
  • Teams are limited to 30 skaters (forwards and defensemen) at training camps, but will be allowed an unlimited number of goaltenders.
  • Any player may choose not to participate in Phases 3 and 4 without discipline or penalty.
  • The opt-out deadline for the players who choose not to participate in the Return To Play format is set for Monday.
  • In the event a player is diagnosed with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, that player shall be deemed to have sustained an illness arising out of the course of his employment as a hockey player and may be removed from training, practice or play, and his condition shall be treated as a hockey related injury under the CBA.
  • If a player who undergoes a medical exam is determined by the team doctor and infectious disease expert that he's high risk of "serious illness" due to COVID-19, they will not be allowed to take part in Phase 3 and 4.
  • If a player tests positive for COVID-19 or develops symptoms in either Phase 3 or 4, teams are not permitted to share that information with the media or public absent prior approval from the NHL.


Phase 4 protocols:

  • A total of 52 people per-team will be allowed inside the bubble.
  • Each team will have a minimum of three coaches allowed, but a maximum of 31 players.
  • Team failure to comply with the protocols in place in the bubble could lead to significant financial penalties, and the potential loss of draft picks.
  • Players who are authorized to leave the bubble can return. They will be forced to quarantine on return, pending four negative tests over a four-day period or longer.
  • The number of people to be tested daily in the bubble includes:
    • Any player/coach/staff member
    • Officials
    • Ice crew
    • Security
    • Hotel bartenders
    • Food service staff
    • Arena food and beverage
    • Hotel housekeeping
    • Hotel kitchen and staff
    • Transportation 
  • Between periods during games, bench areas will be disinfected. That includes the flooring, bench surface, top of dasher board, water bottles area and glass.
  • Players' families will be allowed to join for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton and will be allowed to share hotel rooms.
  • Team personnel will assist with grocery delivery and errand delivery for the players' families while they are away from home.
  • Coaches will not be required to wear masks on the bench.
  • Teams will have no dress code in effect.
  • Every NHL team is required to bring at least one content creator/social media employee with them inside the bubble.

As for the CBA, the league has agreed to an extension that is good through the 2025-26 season. The league had two more years remaining on the current CBA, and the four-year extension gives the NHL six years of labor peace.

Bettman, Fehr, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special assistant Mathieu Schneider will hold a joint press conference on Saturday at 1 p.m. to answer more questions on the CBA.

I’m back.

— The Stanley Cup (@StanleyCup) July 10, 2020

Stay tuned for the latest on this developing story...