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Rick Zamperin: NHL is nearly halfway in its return-to-play plan

Workers clean up after an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Chicago.
Workers clean up after an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Chicago. AP Photo/Paul Beaty

With its season stuck on pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Hockey League has released details of Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol.

The second phase of the NHL’s four-point plan includes the opening of practice rinks and voluntary on- and off-ice workouts for up to six players and is targeted to begin as early as next week.

Physical distancing will be a big part of Phase 2, and continuous testing and symptom monitoring will begin before, and continue during training camp and the resumption of the season — whenever that may happen.

NHL releases memo on return-to-play phase two plan
NHL releases memo on return-to-play phase two plan

The latest news comes a few days after the league and the players’ association agreed to attempt to finish their truncated season with a 24-team playoff format.

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Yet there is still a net full of questions that need to be answered, including where games will be played and when Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (back to playing games) will officially begin.

The NHL suspended its season on March 12. Roughly two-and-a-half months later, the league is only now getting ready to enter Phase 2.

READ MORE: NHLPA board approves ‘further negotiations’ with league on 24-team playoff format

One of the most interesting questions that commissioner Gary Bettman — and others — have been unwilling to answer is whether or not the NHL has a drop-dead date in mind in terms of when the league would ice the puck and officially cancel its season.

It’s as if the NHL is in a best-of-7 playoff series against COVID-19 and the league is trailing 3-games-to-0.

The league and players union may have their backs are against the wall, but it appears as if they are taking it one game at a time, and on the surface, giving it 110 per cent.

As hockey fans, that’s all we can ask for.

Zach Hyman takes on JVR in NHL 20 Gaming Challenge
Zach Hyman takes on JVR in NHL 20 Gaming Challenge

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program director, news and senior sports director with Global News Radio 900 CHML in Hamilton.

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