TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun joined host James Duthie remotely to discuss the latest on a potential transition of Phase 2 of the NHL’s restart plan, contingency plans for the World Juniors and the latest on when CBA negotiations might pick back up.
What’s the latest on a possible transition to Phase 2?
TSN Senior Hockey Writer Frank Seravalli wrote Wednesday the NHL is targeting mid-to-late May for its ‘Phase 2’ – opening team practice facilities for small group workouts. What is the latest on where things stand?
Dreger: The goal is, of course, to initiate Phase 2 at some point around the middle of May, maybe the third week of May but it’s a recommendation. It’s not mandatory. What is mandatory – assuming there is a go-ahead – is that NHL players report to their NHL cities for the start of training camp. And potentially that could be around June 1 but there are others who say that Phase 2 may not be initiated. There’s certainly no guarantee of that and that’s all health-related. It’s important to note though. There will be no agreement on an NHL resumption unless players have an allowance to visit with their families. How does that happen? I mean, could families come into a safe zone in an NHL city? Could an NHL player be released to go visit his family for five days up to a week and then test and then be reintroduced back to the NHL club? All of these things are in the discussion stage.
What are the contingency plans for the World Juniors?
The longer COVID-19 lockdowns last, the closer things get to Boxing Day. How is the World Juniors preparing if safety continues to be an issue late into the year?
McKenzie: Hockey Canada over the next two or three weeks is going to really start grilling down and forming some internal committees or task forces if you will. They would look at every aspect at putting on the World Juniors at opposite ends of the spectrum. That is to suggest putting on the World Juniors in Edmonton at the prescribed time in front of fans. Could it be done? What’s the feasibility, the viability, all those things? Opposite end of the spectrum. What about having to cancel or postpone the World Juniors? What would be the timetable on that? What are the economics and the viability and feasibility of all of that? And what about the in-between intermediate steps if you will? And they’re not out of the question. What if maybe the World Juniors could be played in front of no fans? That’s still a possibility and something this committee will look at over the next two to three weeks once it’s all formed and up. And of course all of this has to be done in concert with the IIHF.
Where are CBA negotiations at?
There have been much more pressing matters at hand, but what’s the latest with the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement? Is there a chance talks could resume sooner rather than later?
LeBrun: CBA talks were essentially shelved when the pandemic happened for obvious reasons. The NHLPA and the NHL had immediate concerns in terms of dealing with this crisis. But what I’m being told is that the two sides have signalled an intention to each other to re-engage at some point here to schedule some CBA discussions to get the ball rolling on that. Now, as someone involved told me, everything we’ve been talking about the last month has to do with the CBA so in some ways it’s not like they’ve stopped talking about the CBA. But, on a more macro level, the long-term viability of the system of the league, of what the players and owners need, that has been shelved and that’s going to have to return here soon enough. It’s the most important conversation to be had for players and owners in terms of the financial impact of this pandemic on their livelihoods. They need a long-term CBA, there’s no other choice.