The NHL is back in business — without fans.
The league and its players’ association on Friday finalized a collective bargaining agreement extension and ratified protocols of the return-to-play plan in hub cities Edmonton and Toronto for the 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs.
The moves pave the way for training camps to open Monday in 24 cities.
The Avalanche and the 11 other Western Conference playoff teams will report to Edmonton on July 26, where they will play games before no fans at Rogers Arena. The Eastern Conference teams will play at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
The NHL previously said the first games will begin Aug. 1. The Avalanche, which is among eight teams with byes to the best-of-five play-in round, will play St. Louis on Aug. 2, Dallas on Aug. 5 and Vegas on Aug. 8 for Western Conference seeding purposes only.
Following the play-in/seeding round, the traditional 16-team, best-of-seven series will begin Aug. 11. The second round will tentatively begin Aug. 25, the conference semifinals Sept. 8 and the Stanley Cup Final on Sept. 22. The 2019-20 season will end approximately a year after it began.
The Avs on Friday said their training camp will take place at Pepsi Center until they travel to Edmonton on July 26.
The four-year CBA extension guarantees labor piece through 2026; it was scheduled to expire in 2022. And it includes allowing NHL players to compete in the 2022 and 2026 Olympics.
“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 release. “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.”
Fehr said in a statement: “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.”
“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.”
The NHL draft is tentative scheduled for Oct. 9-10. The start date for the 2020-21 season could be Dec. 1, but that’s to-be-determined.