NHL News and Notes: Players Testing Positive

The NHL season is still presumably a few weeks away, but the league has been dominating the headlines of late. There are more positive tests for COVID-19 that have been confirmed by the league, a new CBA deal may be struck soon, and one of the six potential hub cities is reportedly out of the running.

Here are the latest NHL headlines.

Fifteen Players Test Positive

In an announcement made Monday, the NHL confirmed that there had been 15 new positive tests for COVID-19 out of the more than 250 players who had been participating in voluntary practices since June 8. It is roughly a six percent positive rate.

In addition, 11 more players tested positive for the coronavirus who had not been participating in Phase 2 of the NHL’s restart plan, which is voluntary workouts at team facilities. That means there are 26 total players who tested positive across the last several weeks, all of whom are or were self-isolating.

When Phase 2 first began on June 8, just six players were allowed on the ice at a time. But last week, the league expanded its rule to allow up to 12 players on the ice at any given time. During that stretch, the Lightning shut down their facility after three players and several staffers tested positive, but re-opened it last week.

The NHL is now hoping for July 10 to be the start of training camps, which will be mandatory for all participating players. However, there is some speculation that the date will be pushed back to July 13. Following training camp, the 24 teams will re-locate to the two hub cities and begin the qualifying round either in late July or early August.

NHL, Players Close On New CBA

During this time off, the league and the players are closing in on a new collective bargaining agreement. It would reportedly cover the next six years, beginning next season.

Among the issues that will be addressed includes remedies for the league’s lost revenue as a result of the shutdown. Escrow will be another hot topic.

The current escrow system withholds a percentage of money from players each season, maintains the balance by giving that money back to owners in case of a lower revenue (like this year), or gives it back to the players at the end of the season. Several players across the league, including star Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin, have said that the players can’t report to camp until the escrow system is fixed.

Aside from the financial aspects of the potential CBA, another issue will cover the league’s stance on international play. Specifically, whether or not the NHL would allow their players to return to the Winter Olympics, which they didn’t in 2018. However, there is no clarity either way on this particular issue.

Vancouver Out As Hub City Destination

Last week, news broke that there were six teams who were in the running to be one of two hub cities that the league would play in when the season restarted. But now the list is one shorter, as the Canucks announced that Vancouver would not be a hub city.

“From the beginning, our goal was to help the NHL get hockey back on the ice if we could. Although Vancouver won’t be a hub city, we are still excited to see hockey start up again,” said Canucks Sports & Entertainment COO Trent Carroll.

Early on, there was speculation that Vancouver was high on the list of choices for the league. However, several reports mentioned that the province of British Columbia and the NHL had differing views on player safety, causing Vancouver’s bid to hit a snag.

Among the criteria that the league is looking for in selecting a hub city is the coronavirus infection rate, how well the city can create and maintain a safety “bubble,” as well as the current lodging and infrastructure already in place.

With Vancouver dropping out, that leaves Toronto, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Chicago has the final five potential locations. Reports indicate that one of the Canadian cities and Las Vegas are the new front-runners.

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