A game once played outdoors in subzero temperatures and wool sweaters may soon crown its champion during the swelter of summer.
On Monday, the National Hockey League sent a memo to players and members of the news media detailing a plan to resume its season with voluntary workouts as soon as early June after a layoff of more than two months.
The announcement came after a vote last week in which the executive board of the N.H.L.’s players association approved a proposal for a 24-team playoff, scrapping the dozen or so games remaining in each team’s regular season. Discussions are continuing between the league and union on how, and where, to resume play, which would almost certainly occur without fans in the arenas.
Even with the framework of the season’s finale taking shape, the plans underscored the concerns that hockey’s stakeholders are weighing to restart.
The league’s 22-page “Phased Return to Sport Protocol” would allow for a maximum of six players at a time to meet in a team’s practice facility, along with a small group of team personnel. On-ice workouts cannot include coaches or trainers, and players will have to wear face coverings elsewhere inside team facilities. Players and team personnel will be required to undergo testing in advance of returning to practice facilities or, if the local supply does not allow for widespread testing, to quarantine for 14 days before they can enter.
The league emphasized that these workouts would be voluntary — to allow for safety concerns and any immigration issues for players returning to the United States — and conducted only where local jurisdictions have relaxed restrictions to allow gatherings.
“We are continuing to monitor developments in each of the club’s markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate, following discussion with all relevant parties,” the memo said.
The plan looks to be a starting point for vetting the logistics of the return to play. The competitive and financial stakes of the league’s return and the health risks associated with going back to normal, make any discussion complicated.
The players’ union vote on the playoff format came after considerable debate but received near unanimous approval, with 29 of 31 team representatives voting to continue discussions.
Under the format, the playoffs would expand from 16 teams to 24, with the top four teams in each conference earning byes. Those top four teams would compete in a round-robin tournament to determine seeding, while the other 16 teams competed in best-of-five series. N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that the games would be played without fans and with limited travel. Competition would be confined to two to four sites, the locations of which have yet to be determined.
The representatives for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes cast the only two votes against pursuing the proposal.
“You look at teams that had a 10 percent chance to make it, now they’re pretty much on a 50-50 playing field,” Jordan Martinook, the Hurricanes representative, said in a conference call on Monday.
Martinook said his team believed that the teams that were seeded fifth through eighth would face a disadvantage because they would have to play an additional five-game series under the new format.
“When you have to win four to win the Stanley Cup — I’m sure the Blues would tell you that it’s hard enough — now that you’re going to have to win five it’s obviously harder,” he said.
Alex Killorn, the Lightning’s player representative said Sunday in an interview with The Athletic that his teammates opposed the format because of competitive imbalance between the top seeds and everyone else.
Frequently Asked Questions and Advice
Updated May 27, 2020
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.
Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?
There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.
Can I go to the park?
Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.
How do I take my temperature?
Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
How can I help?
Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.
Normally, a bye might be an advantage, allowing for more rest and preparation. But after not playing for two months, even top teams need as much time on the ice in high-stakes environments as possible, he said. And he is not comfortable with more teams in the playoff than would normally qualify.
Still, he said, “there’s not going to be any way to do this that satisfies everyone. We’re just going to try to be as fair as possible. Whatever it is, we’re going to have to find a way to play with it.”
As with other major professional leagues managing a return to play, getting Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, remains a big risk in many areas. Five players on the Ottawa Senators and three of the Colorado Avalanche’s players tested positive for Covid-19 in late March.
The league said it consulted with Dr. Bruce Farber, an infectious disease specialist in New York, and other health professionals to shape guidelines that could include drastic changes to the game itself, ranging from mandating players wear full-face shields in games to prohibiting fights.
Georges Laraque, a former enforcer who contracted and recovered from Covid-19, said that while he understood the financial motivation to return to play — estimates vary, but all place lost earnings from a canceled playoff north of $1 billion — he felt that the risks were too great to return this season.
“This year, the guys are not playing for the Stanley Cup, they’re playing not to lose $1.5 billion next year,” Laraque said. “Whoever’s going to win the Cup this year, there’s going to be an asterisk marked on it. It’s a joke.”