By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
It finally seems like the timeline for the return of hockey is becoming clearer. Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan got underway earlier this week with teams being allowed to return to practice and training facilities in small groups. At the time, no timeline was known for when Phase 3, the start of formal training camp, and Phase 4, the return to game action, would be. Now, we have more clarity.
The NHL and NHLPA reached agreement on a tentative start date for formal training camps in Phase 3. Phase 3 is scheduled to begin on July 10, the earliest possible date based on previous updates. The league will only move to Phase 3 on this date provided that medical and safety conditions allow it.
While there is no official timeline of how long Phase 3 will last, it has been widely speculated that training camps would need to be three weeks before teams would return to game action. That would mean Phase 4 and games could return around Aug. 1. There is no update yet for a formal start date for Phase 4 or how testing protocol would take place. There is also no update on the selection of hub cities.
This is another huge step in the return to hockey, especially so early into Phase 2 as the nation starts to slowly progress out of the pandemic. The Flyers were among the teams to open facilities on the first day of Phase 2 on Monday with six players taking the ice. More are expected to follow in the coming weeks, especially with a tentative Phase 3 start date just a month away.
When the league does return to game play in Phase 4, the Flyers will be one of four teams that will participate in a Round Robin tournament to determine the seeding of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers would play one game each against the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.
It was revealed last week that the NHL will re-seed teams after every round, so the Flyers opponent in the first round of the playoffs will not be known until their final seeding is decided through the three games and the entire qualifying round is completed.
Following the best-of-five qualifying round, the remaining four rounds of the playoffs will be the traditional best-of-seven series.