After laying out the terms of a four-year extension to the CBA and protocols for the Return to Play earlier this week, the NHLPA and the Board of Governors officially ratified the plan today, per a release from the league.
The CBA extension will run through 2025-26, and the details are extensive. Of note is that the cap will remain flat at $81.5 million for next season, and the league is committed to participating in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics, scheduled for Beijing and Milan.
The NHL plans to begin its Stanley Cup qualifiers (i.e. the best-of-five round) on August 1, with the Western Conference in Edmonton and the Eastern Conference in Toronto. Given Canada’s relative success handling the coronavirus, the league appears to have made a smart decision to place both of its hub cities north of the border.
Also, the bubbles the players are inhabiting will be known as the “Phase 4 Secure Zones,” and you can just tell that merchandise is going to fly off the shelves.
A smart move by the NHL is that the league is staggering its games throughout the day, so there will be at least five contests per day through Aug. 9 with start times ranging from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. PT. MLB fans have complained that the vast majority of their games are in the evenings, and though their concerns were not heeded, hockey fans will have no down time whatsoever.
The draft is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10, a few days back of the original projection, so free agency likely can’t begin until Oct. 13. However, the league still aims to drop the puck on the 2020-21 season on Dec. 1.
There is still a lot of language to sift through regarding the CBA, but rejoice! Hockey is back.