NHL to allow teams to open training facilities starting Oct. 15

A maximum if 12 players will be allowed on the ice at one time
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While the 2020 Stanley Cup Final continues in the Edmonton bubble, the National Hockey League is already making plans to allow teams to prepare for the 2020-21 season.

The league announced on Thursday protocols for offseason training to allow players to return to their team's training facilities as soon as Oct. 15, three weeks from Thursday.

According to the official release from the NHL, teams will be allowed to open their training facilities no earlier than Oct. 15 for offseason training purposes. Teams can open facilities seven days after receiving notice from at least five players that intend to train at the facility. In addition, no more than 12 players can be on the ice at the same time. No coaches, skating coaches, other team employees or contracted representatives will be allowed in any on-ice sessions.

These protocols will be very similar to how the NHL opened up Phase 2 of the league's Return To Play plan this summer.

The players can choose to voluntary take part in any individualized on- and off-ice activities at team facilities this offseason. In addition, players will be allowed to return to team facilities only in cities where local health authorities will permit these gatherings to take place.

Just like players returning to their home cities for Phase 2 of the league's Return To Play plan, some players and personnel will have to serve a 14-day quarantine regardless of the mode of travel or if they're traveling from a high-risk area. Anyone using public transportation to return to their home city must serve a 14-day self-quarantine. However, where applicable, the 14-day quarantine may be reduced to a seven-day quarantine with PCR testing on Days 1, 3, 5 and 7, with results available on Day 8. If all the tests come back negative, the player remains asymptomatic and afebrile, and a local infectious disease consultant agrees, the player can start training.

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.

Teams will be required to administer the PCR tests to all players and personnel with “Player Access” prior to the commencement of offseason training activities, and at least twice pre-week throughout the time they will be participating in offseason training.

Players will also be allowed the chance to have antibody tests done, but they may be only conducted only with the player's express written consent.

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.

The NHL did fairly well with the re-opening of team facilities for Phase 2 of the league's Return To Play plan. In all, a total of 43 players tested positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2, with just two players testing positive during Phase 3.

In the nearly eight weeks of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, the NHL has not had a single positive COVID-19 test pop up.

Here are some key dates for the NHL ahead of the league allowing teams to re-open training facilities on Oct. 15:

- Friday, Sept. 25 - First player buyout period begins
- Wednesday, Sept. 30 - Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final (if necessary)
- Tuesday, Oct. 6 - Round 1 of the 2020 NHL Draft
- Wednesday, Oct. 7 - Rounds 2-7 of the 2020 NHL Draft
- Wednesday, Oct. 7 - Deadline for clubs to tender qualifying offers to restricted free agents
- Friday, Oct. 9 - Opening of NHL Free Agency

You can read more of the NHL's memorandum on the offseason protocols here: