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NHL, NHLPA Ratify Return-to-Play Protocols, CBA to Resume 2020 Season

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJuly 10, 2020

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 05: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals (2nd from left) celebrates his goal 19:17 of the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 05, 2020 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL and NHLPA have agreed on return-to-play protocols and a new collective bargaining agreement in advance of the league's proposed restart after the season was suspended March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and NHL Network and Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reported the news before the NHLPA made it official:

NHLPA @NHLPA

NHLPA membership has ratified the new CBA with the NHL and the resumption of the 2019-20 season: https://t.co/GPJlQ6ivXz https://t.co/Eu0jHv5REs

Frank Seravalli of TSN provided a timeline for the NHL's return-to-play plan and a snapshot of the qualifying round schedule:

Frank Seravalli @frank_seravalli

Schedule to start #NHL Qualifying Round: https://t.co/OxsKS8MKsW

Frank Seravalli @frank_seravalli

Updated #NHL Critical Dates calendar: https://t.co/VzKMeGHPEk

Chris Johnston of Sportsnet provided more details on the agreement to the CBA, which has been extended through Sept. 2026:

"Players had to agree to extensive protocols governing camps and the bubble environment around where games are played, requiring them to be separated from their families for up to six weeks this summer. They also had to agree to terms on a revamped collective agreement, which will see them defer 10 per cent of next year’s salary while the upper limit of the cap is held firm at $81.5-million for as long as it takes NHL business to return to normal."

The league will advance straight to a 24-team postseason, with the top 12 teams from each conference taking part. NHL on NBC provided the postseason brackets.

NHL on NBC @NHLonNBCSports

A look at the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture - outlined by the NHL Return to Play Plan. The TOP 4 seeds in each conference will play a Round Robin tournament to decide seeding. https://t.co/69TZ00WXfr

NHL on NBC @NHLonNBCSports

A look at the Western Conference Playoff Picture - outlined by the NHL Return to Play Plan. The TOP 4 seeds in each conference will play a Round Robin tournament to decide seeding. https://t.co/DvEvhx4XiY

Canadian cities Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, will act as hubs for the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively, per ESPN's Emily Kaplan. All playoff games will take place in those two locations, with the Stanley Cup Final occurring in Edmonton.

The bottom eight teams (No. 5 through No. 12 seeds) will participate in a best-of-five play-in round. The winners will then join the top four teams in each conference for a standard 16-team NHL playoff bracket.

The seedings are up in the air for the top four teams in each conference, who will contest round-robin tournaments as the play-in games are going on.

All rounds of the 16-team playoffs will be standard best-of-seven series.

With news breaking of the regular season's official end, Washington Capitals wing Alex Ovechkin finished as the league's goalscoring leader for the seventh time in the past eight season. He tied for honors this year with the Boston Bruins' David Pastrnak.

The Bruins won the Presidents' Trophy as the team with the best record.

While it's undoubtedly disappointing that the NHL was forced to wipe out the remainder of the regular season, any hockey is a big win considering the cancellation of the entire regular-season and postseason slates was an option given the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic.

The league halted play amid a host of sports organizations either canceling or postponing seasons over a three-day period from March 11 through March 13. Professional hockey finally appears poised to return, however.

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