New York (AFP) - The NHL is targeting an August 1 return to play after agreeing with the players' union on health and competition protocols, as well as a four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement.
A statement on the NHL website pointed to three key dates, starting with the formal opening of training camps on July 13 -- four months after play was halted due to the coronavirus crisis.
Teams would travel to hub cities on July 26, and a qualifying round would begin on August 1, as the league aims to finalize a field for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Training camps will open in the teams' local markets, but competition will resume in hub cities with 12 Eastern Conference teams reportedly headed to Toronto and 12 from the West to Edmonton, where the Stanley Cup final would be staged in October.
According to reports about the terms, each team will be allowed 52 people in the "secure zone" quarantine bubble with up to 31 players.
Everyone would undergo daily COVID-19 testing -- with 24 teams and 52 people per club, that means 1,248 people daily tests when everyone arrives and until teams are knocked out.
The top four clubs in each conference will play seeding games while the teams ranked fifth to 12th will meet in a five-game series to determine the four qualifiers that face the seeds in the opening round of the playoffs.
None of the plans are official until the collective bargaining agreement extension is approved by the NHL's board of governors and by the union in a full membership vote.
Even as the plans were being finalized, the NHL announced Monday that nine new players tested positive for COVID-19 this past week, bringing the total to date to 35 players.
The NHL said that 396 players had reported to training facilities for optional team workouts and more than 2,900 tests were taken, with more than 1,400 in the past week.
Those tests resulted in 23 positive tests for COVID-19, the NHL said, a figure that included 15 such positives announced a week ago.
The NHL also said it knows of 12 players who have tested positive outside of team workouts since June 8, up one from a week ago.
Players testing positive have been self-isolating. No players or clubs were identified by the league.