The NHL and NHLPA have managed to not only agree to Return to Play protocol, but an extension for the CBA. Regardless of how you feel about the NHL returning to play, they are the only league who have hub cities in a country that has covid-19 under control and they are also going to have pretty strong bubble plan. That said, there are still issues.
The bigger deal is that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to an extension of the CBA through the 2025-2026 season. This is an extremely sensible move for both sides. While the players do not love the new CBA, it provides them with stability in the interim as we deal with a global pandemic for an indefinite period of time and also allows them to go to the Olympics in Beijing, China in 2022. Small wins for fans really.
This does reflect really well on the NHL and NHLPA. While there are issues with the NHL’s Return to Play plan including the fact that multiple team facilities have reported outbreaks in the lead up to phase three which starts today. However, the NHL is far more prudent than other leagues by having their players move to Canada for their bubble tournaments instead of moving them to a covid hotspot (MLS and NBA) or travel around like usual (MLB). The plan is flawed, but it is the least flawed plan of the men’s leagues.
The NHL has managed to achieve labour peace for the first time in years while also rolling out a comprehensive return to play plan. It makes sense even without being favourable to the players because the least favourable thing for them right now would be a lockout in the midst of a pandemic. We do not know how long our current reality will look. We do not know if the NHL will resume for the 2020-2021 season like normal or how it will look. We know none of this because pandemics don’t work in straight lines and the best laid plans can go awry with one infected person going out for dinner or to a church.