If all goes according to plan, the Boston Bruins and 23 other NHL teams in the NHL Return play-in and playoff tournament will be able to go camping on July 10. The NHL and the NHLPA announced Thursday that Phase 3 or training camp will begin July 10 allowing teams to start to prep for a run at the Stanley Cup in earnest and get on step closer to some actual real games.
Here’s the official statement that was sent to the media:
“The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) announced today that formal training camps (Phase 3) for the 24 teams resuming play will open on Friday, July 10, provided that medical and safety conditions allow and the parties have reached an overall agreement on resuming play. The length of training camp and, therefore, the start date for formal resumption of play (Phase 4) will be determined at a future date.”
Phase 2 (voluntary workouts on and off the ice) of the NHL Return plan began on Monday and on Wednesday, Bruins forwards Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron became the first Bruins players to hit the ice at Warrior Arena since the NHL paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12. The team posted a video of Bergeron and Marchand going through drills together and clearly happy to be back at it.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) June 10, 2020
As of mid-day Thursday, there was no word from the Bruins as to who skated and if Marchand that allows a total of six Bruins skaters at a time and four other team personnel in the building.
If the NHL is able to get through Phases 2 and 3, they are expected to begin Phase 4 (the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs), the first week of August. The Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers will play each other in a round-robin to determine the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference. The other eight teams in the East will play best-of-5 play-in series to determine will advance into the playoffs against the roundrobin teams. Once the official playoff stage begins, all four rounds will be best-of-7.
The playoffs will be played in two hub cities, with all players and team personnel required to quarantine in a communal pod to prevent the spread of COVID19 and any chance of the tournament being halted or canceled. On Wednesday night, colleague Dan Kingerski of our sister site Pittsburgh Hockey Now reported that Pittsburgh and Columbus had become the front-runners to be the hub city for the Eastern Conference.
Analysis: There is still a very long way to go for actual playoff games to take place as there is just so much healthwise that could go wrong. That being said, with Phase 2 starting this past Monday, a firm date in place for the start of training camp and the list of hub cities reportedly narrowed down to two cities in the East and by all accounts, Las Vegas in the West, one can’t help but feel real hope that Lord Stanley could still get hoisted in 2020!