NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 28, 2020

Exhibition games begin today, there were no positive COVID-19 tests during the final week of training camp, plus the latest on Max Pacioretty, Dougie Hamilton, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Exhibition play for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan begins today in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins face off at 4 pm ET, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Montreal Canadiens at 8 pm ET at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. In Edmonton, the Oilers tangle with the Calgary Flames at 10:30 pm ET at Rogers Place.

Rogers Place in Edmonton (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These could be the most-watched exhibition games in NHL history. It will provide hockey fans a first glimpse of what the upcoming playoff tournament will look like under bubble conditions without fans.

SPORTSNET: The NHL yesterday announced it received no positive COVID-19 tests from the 4,256 tests among over 800 players during the final week of Phase 3 training camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a total of two positive tests during Phase 3. That’s still no assurance a COVID-19 outbreak won’t take place during the playoffs. Nevertheless, it’s a very promising sign as the 24 teams prepare to face off for Phase 4 under stricter quarantine conditions.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty didn’t travel with his teammates to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament. He’s recovering from a minor injury that kept him out of the final week of training camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pacioretty is expected to travel to the Edmonton bubble at a later date. He will undergo a brief quarantine requiring four negative COVID-19 tests before he can rejoin his teammates.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton missed practice in Toronto yesterday. He’s been listed as unfit to participate. Hamilton hasn’t skated since leaving practice on Wednesday in some discomfort.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad returned to the ice on Monday after missing the last three practice sessions. He’ll be held out of Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Lightning for precautionary reasons.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger Ondrej Kase didn’t travel with his teammates to Toronto on Sunday and there’s no indication when he’ll rejoin the club. He missed all of the Bruins’ training camp and remains listed as unfit to play.

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby are among the 31 nominees for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The award honors “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.”

NEW YORK POST: The son of former NHL defenseman Barry Beck was fatally stabbed over the weekend in Binbrook, Ontario. Brock Beck, 20, was pronounced dead in hospital following a confrontation with unidentified suspects.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the Beck family. Here’s hoping the suspects are quickly captured and feel the full penalty of the law.

What’s the NHL’s Plan For a Full 82-Game Schedule in 2020-21?

What’s the NHL’s Plan For a Full 82-Game Schedule in 2020-21?


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 22, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 22, 2020

Hart Trophy Finalists revealed, plus the latest on Tuukka Rask, Jonathan Toews, Carter Hart, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, and New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin are this season’s finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded by the Professional Hockey Writers Association to the player adjudged most valuable to his team.

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl is among the finalists for the Hart Trophy (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These three are also the finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award honoring the most valuable player as voted by the NHL Players Association membership.


THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has a small fracture in one of the fingers on his left hand but he doesn’t believe that will impede his play. He said the injury happened several weeks ago and it’s feeling much better.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nevertheless, you can bet opposing players will test that hand by firing more shots to his glove hand wherever possible.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews left practice early on Monday and was out for Tuesday’s scrimmages. Coach Jeremy Colliton said Toews was “unfit to participate”, citing league protocols.

Meanwhile, Corey Crawford’s chances of returning to the ice before the Blackhawks head to Edmonton on Sunday appear to be dwindling. Teams are allowed to bring 31 players to the upcoming playoff tournament. The club isn’t ruling out saving a roster spot for Crawford.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford hasn’t participated in Phase 3 training, sparking speculation he’s nursing an injury. Without their starting goaltender, the Blackhawks could face long odds of upsetting the favored Edmonton Oilers in their qualifying round tournament.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers goaltender Carter Hart left the ice during the first period of a three-period scrimmage yesterday and didn’t return. Because of league injury protocols, the Flyers provided no details for Hart’s departure. Local broadcaster Colby Cohen said he was told Hart experienced minor back spasms and could return in a day or two.

CBS SPORTS: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman returned to the ice Tuesday after missing a pair of practices to a leg injury suffered when he blocked a shot on Friday.

TSN: St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester won’t be traveling with the club to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament. He’s been sidelined since suffering a cardiac incident on Feb. 11 during a game with the Anaheim Ducks.

Speaking of the Blues, STLTODAY.COM reports Ivan Barbashev will miss one or two round-robin games and the start of the opening round of the playoffs to attend the birth of his child. He’ll have to test negative for COVID-19 four times in four days before he can rejoin his teammates in Edmonton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Washington Capitals forward Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin will also be departing the quarantine bubble in Toronto to be with their wives when they give birth. They’ll have to go through the same testing before rejoining the Capitals.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports every player traveling to the bubble cities in Edmonton and Toronto for the upcoming playoff tournament must have three negative COVID-19 tests within a 48-hour period.

COVID-19 Could Still Derail the NHL’s Return-To-Play Plan

COVID-19 Could Still Derail the NHL’s Return-To-Play Plan


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 6, 2020

The NHL and NHLPA finalize a tentative return-to-play agreement. Check out the details in today’s morning coffee headlines.


TSN/SPORTSNET: Bob McKenzie, Frank Seravalli, Elliotte Friedman, and Chris Johnston reported the NHL and NHL Players Association have tentatively agreed on protocols for Phases 3 and 4 of their return-to-play program. Here are the notable points:

The NHL & NHLPA reach a tentative agreement on the final phases of their return-to-play plan (Image via NHL.com).

Bob McKenzie reports negotiations to finalize an extension to the collective bargaining agreement are expected to continue Monday. That extension and the return-to-play plan must be ratified by the NHL board of governors and the NHLPA executive committee, followed by a full membership vote.

No ratification can take place, however, until a CBA memorandum of understanding (MOU) is completed. The PA membership vote requires up to 72 hours to complete and it’s unlikely to be held before Wednesday.

The target date for the start of Phase 3 (training camp) remains July 13, with teams traveling to the two host cities (Edmonton and Toronto) on or about July 26 and Phase 4 (playoff tournament beginning Aug. 1.

Phase 3 rosters are limited to 30 skaters and unlimited goaltenders. Only players eligible to play in the playoff tournament can take part in Phase 3 training camps.

Players can opt-out of Phase 3 and 4 without penalty but must make their decision three days following the ratification vote. Teams must submit their lists of participating players by July 9.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a change from previous reports suggesting a player could opt-out at any time without penalty.

Players will undergo a pre-participation medical exam. They and the team staff will also be tested for COVID-19 48 hours before reporting to camp and will be tested every second day afterward. If results aren’t available within 24 hours, they cannot report until a negative test is confirmed.

If a player is determined to be at substantial risk of contracting a serious illness, they’ll be deemed unfit to play and treated as a hockey-related injury, though they can also seek a second opinion. If a player or an immediate family member develops COVID-19 symptoms, he must immediately notify his team’s medical staff, self-isolate, and go through testing protocols.

Players are not permitted to skate at public facilities during Phase 3. Fitness testing of players isn’t permitted. Phase 3 fitness activities include on/off ice sessions with coaches and traditional training camp activities.

Teams failing to comply with return-to-play protocols will be subject to significant financial penalties and the potential loss of draft picks. That includes individuals leaving the host city bubble without permission, which could result in those individuals being removed from the tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wonder if that loss of draft picks could include their first-round pick in this year’s draft. That would be a powerful dissuasion to skirting the rules, especially for those 16 clubs in the qualifying round. One of the eight clubs eliminated from that round will have a chance to win this year’s draft lottery.

Phase 3 or 4 can be postponed, delayed, moved or canceled if either the league or the PA believe conditions could create a risk or jeopardize the health of players. If the PA is dissatisfied with the decision of the NHL commissioner, it can file a grievance with an independent arbitrator.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a crucial point. A significant outbreak of COVID-19 among one or more teams could bring the return-to-play plan to a screeching halt. 

Coaches won’t be required to wear masks or face coverings on the bench. There won’t be a dress code for players during Phase 4.


Frank Seravalli reported on what life would be like within a host city quarantine bubble during Phase 4. Among the noteworthy points:

Each team will be permitted to bring a maximum of 52 people, including no more than 31 players. That will include at least one physician and one club Phase 4 compliance officer.

Each player and team staff member will be subjected to daily COVID-19 testing. That also includes persons involved in housing, feeding, and transporting the players and team staff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless those workers are also staying within that bubble, daily testing probably isn’t a foolproof way to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19.

Each player will have their own hotel room and won’t be permitted to enter each other’s rooms. Each team will be assigned designated floors. Housekeeping will be provided every third day.

Players will have access to hotel bars, restaurants, pools, and fitness facilities. The league is also considering approved excursions inside and outside the bubble. Players authorized to leave the bubble for medical or personal reasons (birth of a child, death of a family member, etc) will be permitted to return following a quarantine and testing period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s important for the players’ morale to have access to entertainment and recreation facilities, especially for teams advancing deep into the playoffs. Those trips outside the bubble, as Seravalli noted, could be for excursions like pre-arranged tee times at golf courses.

The players’ immediate families will be permitted to join them within the bubble during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final once acceptable quarantine and testing have been conducted inside the bubble.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will be very important for those players. By that point, they’ll have been away from their loved ones for over five weeks.

Details of the plan could be released soon. In the meantime, I recommend following the links provided above for more information.

With a tentative agreement on return-to-play, I expect we’ll see a CBA extension at some point this week if Phase 3 is to begin on July 13. That will allow time for the PA membership to hold their vote.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 2, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 2, 2020

Edmonton and Toronto set to become hub cities, the latest return-to-play and CBA extension news, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


TSN: Bob McKenzie reported Edmonton and Toronto are set to become the two hub cities for the NHL’s return-to-play tournament barring any last-minute complications. Frank Seravalli reports the 12 Eastern Conference clubs would report to Toronto and the 12 Western Conference clubs would head to Edmonton.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Phase 3 (training camp) would begin on July 13, with teams traveling to the hub cities as soon as July 25 for Phase 4.

The NHL and NHLPA are reportedly closing in on a return-to-play plan and CBA extension (Image via NHL.com).

THE ATHLETIC’s Michael Russo reports Las Vegas fell out of the running as a hub city because of recent reports of a rise of positive COVID-19 tests among hotel and casino employees. That defeated the purpose of an NHL player/staff bubble.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Ed Graney reports infection rates are still rising in Nevada, with that state seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission in the United States.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vegas was considered a lock to be a hub city until earlier this week when logic finally prevailed. Canada is trending in the right direction as active COVID-19 cases steadily decline.

The league’s return-to-play plan, which includes daily testing, received approval from the Canadian government, the governments of Alberta and Ontario, and the municipal governments of Edmonton and Toronto.


TSN: Bob McKenzie also reported the NHL and NHL Players’ Association appear to be drawing closer to an agreement on a return-to-play plan and an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. However, he warns nothing is settled until both sides ratify a tentative deal. The NHLPA membership could vote on Friday or Saturday.

It’s McKenzie’s understanding that non-NHL players signed to NHL contracts in recent weeks (Montreal’s Alexander Romanov, Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov, and the New York Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin) won’t be eligible to play in the 24-team playoff tournament.

Frank Seravalli reports the league and PA agreed to an interim extension on all expiring player contracts pending completion of the CBA extension and agreement on Phases 3 and 4 of the return-to-play plan. He also indicates part of the agreement would allow any player to opt-out of return-to-play.

The deals would require two-thirds majority approval from the NHL Board of Governors, but a simple majority from the NHLPA membership. Seravalli indicates it would be a three- or four-year extension to the current CBA. The players are also expected to receive small lifestyle benefits in this deal, such as increases in medical subsidies in retirement and player health insurance, and increase rental/mortgage reimbursement following trade or reassignment.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the players’ pay would be delinked from league revenue for the next two years with a 20 percent escrow cap and a fixed salary cap of $81.5 million before eventually returning to a system based on the current model. The players’ would also defer 10 percent of their salaries for next season to a later date.

Johnston also reports there were negotiations on changing the rules on salary structure, with limits on signing bonuses and restrictions on salary variance from year to year. The league is also willing to participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics, pending an agreement with the International Olympic Committee on insurance, travel, and other issues.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo speculates the IOC’s position on those issues may be softening if the league and the PA made that agreement on Olympic participation. He also cited a player agent saying his clients still don’t have a clear understanding of the economic impact of playing this season versus not playing. They also have concerns over the possible health risks associated with playing this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We could learn more details on both plans over the next two days. As McKenzie points out, nothing is set in stone yet. The players’ concerns are legitimate and could potentially derail this agreement if not sufficiently addressed. 

I’m curious to see what the major CBA changes could be once the deal is ratified.  No surprise the league wants to close the loophole on paying the bulk of a player’s salary in signing bonuses. I also expected they would attempt to narrow the salary variance, currently at 50 percent.

Olympic participation was considered among the main sticking points in CBA talks prior to the pandemic interrupting the regular season. That’s a significant concession from the league to the players, but I’m interested in what it will cost the players down the road. 

The poison pill, as always, could be escrow. As Seravalli recently noted, the players could end up paying back escrow shortfalls from the pandemic for years if league revenues fail to substantially rebound over the next two or three seasons.


VANCOUVER SUN: Canucks winger Jake Virtanen is catching flak for failing to practice proper social distancing during a recent visit to a Vancouver nightclub. Several teammates took to Twitter condemning what they consider his reckless behavior, especially with the league set to implement the next phase of its’ return-to-play plan.

The Canucks say they’ve spoken with Virtanen, who hasn’t taken part in Phase 2 voluntary small-group training with the club. He will be tested before rejoining the team.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks signed an affiliate agreement with the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers.