The NHL has reached the “play” part of its Return to Play plan: games in two Canadian “hub cities” beginning August 1. Teams reported to those cities on July 26 and remain isolated for as long as they are needed. Over there. They each played an exhibition game prior to the start of the pre-Stanley Cup playoffs schedule, which consists of a qualifying round and a round-robin game that takes place simultaneously.
Hockey officially returns to the ice more than four months after the 2019-20 season was suspended on March 12 due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19). The league and its players agreed to resume play in four stages, with stage 4, the current stage, being the final step.
Here’s what you need to know about the NHL’s ‘bubble’ and hub city:
What are the NHL bubble & hub cities?
The NHL “bubble” consists of restricted areas in two hub cities – Edmonton and Toronto – where team personnel will need to remain as the league tries to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Each club occupies one floor in a designated hotel. Other access areas include arenas, exercise facilities, dining destinations (hotel restaurants and bars, and conference rooms where food is brought in) and “other demarcated areas (inside and outside)” according to the Phase 4 protocols of the competition. Individual access is determined by the person’s role in the club.
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Where’s the NHL bubble?
The NHL bubble, unlike the NBA bubble in Orlando, is located in two hub cities: Edmonton (for Western Conference teams) and Toronto (for Eastern Conference teams). Games are played without spectators in Edmonton’s Rogers Place and the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
NHL bubble & hub city teams
The NHL has brought 24 teams, 12 per conference, to the hub cities. The top four teams in each conference based on regular season records will compete in a round robin to determine their placement for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Teams in fifth through 12th positions in each conference compete in a best-of-five qualifying round to determine the rest of the playoff field.
Below are the 24 teams in the NHL bubble and hub cities by rank at the time NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declared the regular season on May 26 or 2 1/2 months after the season was suspended on March 12 . with percentage points, because not all teams played the same number of matches.
Standings NHL 2019-20
NHL qualifying round matchups
(5) Penguins vs. (12) Canadiens
(6) Hurricanes vs. (11) Rangers
(7) Islanders vs. (10) Panthers
(8) Maple Leafs vs. (9) Blue coats
(5) Oilers vs. (12) Blackhawks
(6) Predators vs. (11) Coyotes
(7) Canucks vs. (10) Wild
(8) Flames vs. (9) Jets
NHL teams not in the bubble & hub cities
Seven teams did not advance to the qualifying round in the NHL bubble and hub cities based on their records. Their 2019-20 seasons ended when the NHL’s Return to Play plan was approved. The non-bubble / hub city teams are the Red Wings, Senators, Devils and Sabers in the East; and the sharks, kings and ducks in the west.
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Number of people per team in the NHL bubble & hub cities
Teams were allowed to bring 31 players and a whopping 52 people (including property, executives, coaches and staff) to their hub city hotel in total. Travel groups stay together in team hotels, but each person has their own room and no one can visit another room. Guests will only be admitted to the September final in the NHL hub city bubble to the conference finals in Edmonton, where family members can reunite with players.
COVID-19 testing in the NHL bubble & hub cities
According to NHL.complayers undergo daily testing and temperature and symptom checks during phase 4. People who are in the bubble (the league calls it the “security zone”) must wear protective masks when outside their hotel rooms, but they may remove them during the exercising, playing, eating or drinking. Social distance should be maintained “under all circumstances where it is feasible,” according to the protocols of the competition.
Any member of the travel party of a team that develops symptoms of COVID-19 should immediately notify a representative of the club and then isolate themselves. The club doctor will examine the person and then decide, together with the club’s infectious disease specialist and the competition’s medical director, whether they want to perform PCR tests. Club personnel are also required to notify medical personnel if they come into contact with anyone they suspect to have COVID-19.
In the event of symptoms and / or a positive test, the person will be isolated in their hotel room if they are there at that time, or sent to a designated isolation area if they are outside their room within the protected area and medically shed. If they are “acutely ill or medically unstable,” medical personnel will “ensure appropriate clinical follow-up, treatment and care.”
As for when those who test positive can leave isolation after a positive test: It’s complicated. The shortened version:
Asymptomatic persons: Ten days after the first positive test if the person has remained asymptomatic; or after two consecutive negative respiratory tests in a period of 24 hours or more.
Persons who exhibit symptoms during testing or during self-isolation: No fever or breathing symptoms for a period of 72 hours, if the person has been in self-isolation for at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms; or two consecutive negative tests plus a solution for fever (without the use of anti-fever medicines) and an improvement in respiratory symptoms.
Doctors treating people in isolation should “conclude that the person no longer poses a risk of infection to others and that it is medically appropriate (given individual and local circumstances) to end the requirement for self-isolation.” Furthermore, “termination of the isolation requirement must be in accordance with applicable local public health or other requirements.”
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Can a player leave the NHL bubble & hub cities?
Yes, but only in a limited number of cases, per NHL.com: medical reasons, mitigating circumstances (such as the birth of a child or illness or death in the family), or a family event such as a wedding. When a player returns to the secure area, he is quarantined in his hotel room and then has to test negative at least four consecutive times for four days.
What happens if a player leaves the bubble without permission?
The player can be removed from the protected area on return, or he can be quarantined for 10-14 days and subjected to “enhanced testing and monitoring”. Teams can be fined and / or lose concept picks for unauthorized departure from the bubble.
NHL bubble & hub city schedule
Up to six games a day are played in NHL hub cities during the qualifying round and round-robin competition, with triple headers in each arena. The qualifying round starts on August 1; round-robin play starts on August 2. This segment of the NHL’s return to play ends on August 9.
Below is a day-by-day schedule for the qualifying rounds and round-robin seeding games in the NHL bubble and hub cities through August 9.
NHL qualification round & round-robin schedules
(All times east)
Saturday, August 1
Rangers vs. Hurricanes, Game 1, afternoon in Toronto
Blackhawks vs. Oilers, Game 1, in Edmonton, 3:00 PM
Panthers vs. Islanders, Game 1, in Toronto, 4 p.m.
Canadiens vs. Penguins, Game 1, in Toronto, 8:00 PM
Jets vs. Flames, Game 1, in Edmonton, 10:30 PM
Sunday August 2
Coyotes vs. Predators, Game 1, in Edmonton, 2 PM
Flyers vs. Bruins, round-robin, in Toronto, 3 p.m.
Blues vs. Avalanche, round-robin, in Edmonton, 6:30 PM
Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, Game 1, in Toronto, 8 p.m.
Wild vs. Canucks, Game 1, in Edmonton, 10:30 PM
Monday, August 3
Rangers vs. Hurricanes, Game 2, afternoon
Jets vs. Flames, Game 2, 2.30 pm
Capitals vs. Lightning, round-robin, in Toronto, 4 p.m.
Stars vs. Stars Golden Knights, round-robin, in Edmonton, 6:30 PM
Canadiens vs. Penguins, Game 2, 8 PM
Blackhawks vs. Oilers, Game 2, 10:30 PM
Tuesday, August 4
Panthers vs. Islanders, Game 2, afternoon
Coyotes vs. Predators, Game 2, 2:30 PM
Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, Game 2, 4 PM
Flames vs. Jets, Game 3, 6:45 PM
Hurricanes vs. Rangers, Game 3, 8 p.m.
Wild vs. Canucks, Game 2, 10:45 PM
Wednesday, August 5
Islanders vs. Panthers, Game 3, afternoon
Predators vs. Coyotes, Game 3, 2:30 PM
Lightning vs. Bruins, robin, 4 pm
Avalanche vs. Stars, round-robin, 6:30 PM
Penguins vs. Canadiens, Game 3, 8 p.m.
Oilers vs. Blackhawks, Game 3, 10:30 PM
Thursday, August 6
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, Game 3, TBD
Hurricanes vs. Rangers, Game 4 *, TBD
Capitals vs. Flyers, round-robin, TBD
Canucks vs. Wild, Game 3, TBD
Flames vs. Jets, Game 4 *, TBD
Golden Knights vs. Blues, round-robin, TBD
Friday, August 7
Islanders vs. Panthers, Game 4 *, TBD
Penguins vs. Canadiens, Game 4 *, TBD
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, Game 4 *, TBD
Predators vs. Coyotes, Game 4 *, TBD
Canucks vs. Wild, Game 4 *, TBD
Oilers vs. Blackhawks, Game 4 *, TBD
Saturday, August 8
Rangers vs. Hurricanes, Game 5 *, TBD
Canadiens vs. Penguins, Game 5 *, TBD
Bruins vs. Capitals, round-robin, TBD
Jets vs. Flames, Game 5 *, TBD
Blackhawks vs. Oilers, Game 5 *, TBD
Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, round-robin, TBD
Sunday, August 9
Panthers vs. Islanders, Game 5 *, TBD
Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, Game 5 *, TBD
Flyers vs. Lightning, round-robin, TBD
Wild vs. Canucks, Game 5 *, TBD
Coyotes vs. Predators, Game 5 *, TBD
Stars vs. Stars Blues, round-robin, TBD
* If necessary
The Stanley Cup playoffs begin after the qualifying round and round-robin play. All four rounds of the playoffs are the best of seven. The Stanley Cup final provisionally starts on September 22 and ends on October 4.
The NHL Draft (October 9-10) and the free agency (which could begin until October 13) will follow the completion of the Stanley Cup final. The regular 2020-21 NHL season provisionally begins on December 1, 2020.