The NHL finally has a date for when it hopes to start training camps.
The league and the NHL Players Association announced Thursday that training camps will open July 10, provided coronavirus-related safety and medical conditions allow them to and the parties have reached an agreement on resuming play.
This is known as Phase 3 of a four-part plan to restart the season, and it will be mandatory for players to attend camps. Twenty-four of the 31 teams are still standing and have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
“I’m excited!” Flyers center Kevin Hayes texted from Boston, where he is living and training. “We all have been waiting for this. Hopefully everything leading to July 10 goes smooth. I think the whole league is excited.”
In a conference call with reporters, Toronto defenseman Morgan Riellycalled the announcement good news for all the players.
“If you asked most players what was the hardest part about it all, it was the uncertainty," he said.
Among the issues that still need to be resolved: testing and whether players will be quarantined from their families for the length of the tournament. The games will be played at two still-to-be-named hub cities.
The length of camps and the starting date to resume the season (Phase 4) will be determined at a future date, the NHL said in a statement.
Previously, the league said it wanted a three-week camp. If that happened, the season wouldn’t restart until August and would finish in October.
When play resumes, the Flyers will play in a four-team round-robin tournament to determine the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference. Boston, Tampa Bay, and Washington are the other three teams.
In the East and West, eight teams will play in best-of-five, play-in series to decide who advances into the Stanley Cup playoffs, joining the round-robin teams. That will leave 16 teams (eight in each conference) with a chance to win the Cup. After the round-robin and play-in series, there will be four best-of-seven series to determine the Stanley Cup champion.
On Monday, at their training facility in Voorhees, the Flyers started voluntary small-group, on-ice workouts that had a handful of participants. The rest of the players have been working out and skating near their hometowns in Canada and Europe.
With Thursday’s announcement, players are expected to return to the area in the upcoming weeks.
The NHL’s regular season was paused March 12 and later declared finished because of the coronavirus outbreak. At the time, the Flyers (41-21-7) were the league’s hottest team, having won nine of their last 10 games to climb into second place in the Metropolitan Division.
“I think we should be able to use the momentum we had leaving the break,” said Hayes, 28, who finished with 23 goals, one behind team leader Travis Konecny. “It starts with our older players and core guys to set the tone and make sure everyone is doing the right things.”
The Flyers haven’t won a playoff series since 2012 and haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1975. They hope to reset those numbers.