NHL GEARS UP TO ICE NEW BOYS OF SUM­MER

Full train­ing camps set to be­gin July 10, but there’s still plenty of un­cer­tainty in the air

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - LANCE HORNBY lhornby@post­media.com

July 10, nor­mally a date when NHL ac­tiv­ity be­gins wind­ing down af­ter the play­offs, draft and free agency, is now a launch date for post-sea­son train­ing camps.

In a joint re­lease Thurs­day, the league and play­ers as­so­ci­a­tion have agreed full camps can com­mence on that day — at last a hard tar­get on a cal­en­dar most have been guess­ing at since play halted March 12.

Yet it re­mains to be seen if the pro­posed 24-team tour­na­ment with its late sum­mer tar­get date will be­gin as planned. With COVID-19 re­cov­ery still over­shad­ow­ing the en­tire world’s timetable, the league must move cau­tiously and in con­cert with the union. The lat­ter wants to ne­go­ti­ate a safe en­vi­ron­ment in which to play and train over a num­ber of weeks at camp and in the two tour­na­ment hub cities.

Thurs­day’s state­ment did ad­vise that camp will only go ahead “pro­vided that med­i­cal and safety con­di­tions al­low and the par­ties have reached an over­all agree­ment on re­sum­ing play. The length of camp and there­fore the start date for for­mal re­sump­tion of play will be de­ter­mined at a fu­ture date.”

With Canada in­sist­ing on a 14-day quar­an­tine for any­one ar­riv­ing, the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens, Win­nipeg Jets, Edmonton Oil­ers, Vancouver Canucks and Cal­gary Flames could face is­sues and opt to hold their camps in the U.S. The Cana­di­ens, in par­tic­u­lar, don’t have a large amount of play­ers in town yet and those com­ing in don’t want to sit around their res­i­dence for two weeks un­able to train.

In Toronto, about 20 play­ers have ar­rived or will soon clear quar­an­tine, so go­ing south is un­likely. Top scorer Aus­ton Matthews and start­ing goalie Fred­erik An­der­sen have yet to ar­rive from the U.S., hop­ing the fed­eral govern­ment re­laxes the rule and the prac­tice rink can be con­sid­ered a quar­an­tine haven rather than sit­ting out 14 days.

An­other pos­si­ble av­enue for Cana­dian cities hop­ing to be hubs would be an agree­ment for en­hanced daily COVID-19 test­ing of ar­rivals, to be done at the Cana­dian clubs’ ex­pense.

Maple Leaf Sports and En­ter­tain­ment has al­ready said it would make such test­ing fa­cil­i­ties avail­able to the pub­lic when not in use.

Mean­while, the hub cities have yet to be named. Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton were on com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman’s pre­lim­i­nary list re­vealed in late May, along with Chicago, Colum­bus, Dal­las, Las Ve­gas,

Los An­ge­les, St. Paul, Minn., and Pitts­burgh.

Edmonton is push­ing hard at the pro­vin­cial level, with Al­berta Pre­mier Ja­son Ken­ney tout­ing his city’s low COVID-19 num­bers and the boost that some busi­ness sent their way could mit­i­gate tough eco­nomic times. While talks have gone on be­tween the NHL and the Cana­dian govern­ment to re­lax 14-day re­stric­tions on ar­rivals, it would be hard for NHL per­son­nel, team sup­port staff and fam­i­lies to come and go from a coun­try that re­quired them to iso­late.

That would point to a cou­ple of U.S. lo­ca­tions get­ting the nod. Spec­u­la­tion has Las Ve­gas, Los An­ge­les, Dal­las and Chicago on the short list, with lit­tle or no me­dia present in the rinks, other than a feed broad­cast — likely NBC pro­vid­ing pic­tures back to crews in in­di­vid­ual mar­kets.

There was re­lief on many fronts that the wheels are turn­ing a lit­tle faster to­ward a restart. As of this past Mon­day, play­ers could re­turn to their team’s prac­tice fa­cil­i­ties in small num­bers, up to five or six on ice at one time, on a vol­un­tary ba­sis.

“Now it’s just a mat­ter of putting in the time be­tween now and July 10,” said de­fence­man Mor­gan Rielly, al­ter­nate cap­tain of the Leafs. “Then we’ll get ev­ery­one to­gether and hope­fully from there it’ll be smooth sail­ing in terms of what we have to ac­com­plish in or­der to go play­ing again. It’s ob­vi­ously very help­ful hav­ing dates.”

While the Leafs were in one of the top 16 play­off po­si­tions when play stopped, the Cana­di­ens were look­ing at pos­si­ble elim­i­na­tion. Now they’re fac­ing Pitts­burgh in a best-of-five qual­i­fier.

“It’s a great op­por­tu­nity,” the Habs’ Jeff Petry told The Detroit News from his home­town train­ing base. “Three months ago, we were play­ing the last 10 games of our sea­son and it was go­ing to be over. Ob­vi­ously, this whole sit­u­a­tion isn’t any­thing that any­body ex­pected, but the op­por­tu­nity has come up and ev­ery­one is ex­cited about it.

“Hope­fully, ev­ery­thing works out and we can get back on the ice, be­cause it’s play­off hockey and in a nor­mal year any­thing can hap­pen in the play­offs. To get that op­por­tu­nity, it’s some­thing we’re all look­ing for­ward to and ex­cited about.”

IAN KUCERAK

Mon­treal Cana­di­ens de­fence­man Jeff Petry, his team out of the play­off pic­ture when the NHL sea­son paused March 12, is happy to have a sec­ond chance at the Stan­ley Cup through the new play-in round.

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