NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 5, 2020
The league announces transition to Phase 2 of its Return-To-Play Plan, the Stanley Cup playoffs will follow best-of-seven format following the qualifying round, a Penguins player tests positive for COVID-19, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL ANNOUNCES PHASE 2 DATE OF RETURN-TO-PLAY FORMAT
NHL.COM: The league yesterday announced it will transition to the second phase of its Return-To-Play Plan effective Monday, June 8. The 31 clubs will be allowed to open their training facilities for small-group training as per Phase 2 protocols, which includes the approval of municipal and state/provincial health officials. A maximum of six players can train together at a time on a voluntary basis.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports not all clubs will be in a position to open right away. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston cites numbers of players in town, the appointment of hygiene officers, and the cost are among the issues. Phase 3, which is opening training camps, is expected to be implemented in July if all goes well.
2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS TO BE BEST-OF-SEVEN FOR ALL ROUNDS
The league also announced yesterday the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be a best-of-seven for all four rounds following the qualifying round. In each round, the highest remaining seed in each conference will face the lowest remaining seed, the second-highest remaining seed in each will face the second-lowest, and so on.
“Everybody is used to a best-of-7,” Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang told The Associated Press. “You know how it’s structured. You know how it feels if you lose the first two or you win the first two. You kind of know all the scenarios that can go through a best-of-7.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Only the qualifying round will be best-of-five. Chris Johnston reported the “integrity” of the playoffs was the deciding factor that was important for the playoffs. However, he pointed out the entire playoff tournament could stretch to 68 days, which could pose a challenge if there’s a second COVID-19 outbreak this fall.
Tiebreakers for the round-robin round involving the top-four teams in each conference will be decided by regular-season points percentage. Once the round-robin is concluded, the seeding order for those eight clubs will remain the same throughout the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports the league wanted a best-of-five format for the first two playoff rounds for brevity. The players, however, insisted on the best-of-seven.
PENGUINS PLAYER TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: The Penguins yesterday released a statement indicating one of their players tested positive for COVID-19. The player is not in Pittsburgh, self-isolated at home since he first experienced symptoms, and is recovering and feeling well. Those in close contact with the player since his diagnosis have been notified.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This player is the first in over two months to test positive for COVID-19. It is a reminder of the challenge facing the league in ensuring the health and safety of the players during training camps and the 24-team playoff tournament.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said one positive test wouldn’t derail the process. The league intends to implement daily testing to monitor all players and staff.
LATEST NHL CBA NEWS
TSN: Darren Dreger reports discussions between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association over extending the current collective bargaining agreement have intensified as of late. Escrow, the salary cap, and hockey-related revenue were the main discussion points.
An escrow stability plan is a crucial point for the players. They want to know if it’ll be 20 percent for the foreseeable future or more than 25 percent. They also want to know what the salary cap will be for 2020-21. Dreger said an NHLPA negotiating committee involving perhaps 10-or-more players is being formed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman cites multiple sources claiming there’s a legitimate attempt to get a CBA extension by the time play resumes later this summer. He suggested there could be a 20 percent escrow cap and a flat salary cap of $81.5 million for the next several seasons.
A CBA extension could be the only silver lining to emerge from the cloud of uncertainty currently hanging over the NHL thanks to COVID-19. The current agreement will expire in September 2022, but the last thing the league needs is contentious labor talks threatening yet another lockout in two years’ time. Both sides must work together to overcome the current financial issues they’re facing from the pandemic.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE SCORE: NHL Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree is troubled by the death of George Floyd and the violent confrontations between police and protesters in the United States.
“I’m 84 years old and didn’t think I’d witness some of the stuff that’s going on, but this dates back to the slavery age,” O’Ree said. “It’s very discouraging to see what’s going on now.”
O’Ree made history in 1958 by becoming the first black player in the NHL.
OTTAWA SUN: The Ottawa Senators foundation announced it will be severing ties with the hockey club’s parent group when their agreement expires on July 31. Ken Warren reports it’s believed Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wanted more control over the direction of the charity.