After close to three months of inactivity, a small group of Bruins are set to finally return to the ice next week.
The NHL announced Thursday night that it will officially transition to Phase 2 of its “Return To Play” plan effective June 8 — giving the green light for players to take part in voluntary, non-contact practices at team facilities.
Per the announcement, players will be limited to small groups (a maximum of six players at any one time, plus a limited number of Club staff). Phase 2 is not a substitute for training camp, as Phase 3 will involve full practices and is expected to get underway in July — although no official date has been set.
The league added that all necessary preparation for Phase 2 — including education, diagnostic testing, scheduling for medicals, etc. —, can begin immediately.
While Massachusetts has been regarded as a COVID-19 hotspot in the U.S., Charlie Baker did announce last week that pro sports could resume regular practices at their own facilities starting June 6th — paving the way for the Bruins to transition rather seamlessly into Phase 2.
“We are excited about Governor Baker’s announcement today and appreciative of all the work that has been done to allow us to resume practice,” Cam Neely said in a statement. “Our staff has prepared in accordance with the NHL’s Phase 2 protocols and we will be ready to facilitate small group work once the NHL gives teams approvals.”
It remains to be seen how many Bruins skaters do take part in these voluntary workouts. Zdeno Chara did note last week that he made the drive back up from Florida up to Massachusetts in order to take part in practices — while a league memo added that teams will be tasked with helping any player looking to travel back to their club city for these workouts.
“Clubs should help to shall facilitate Player travel arrangements, to the extent permitted, to enable 2 Players who are not in the Club’s home city, to return to the Club’s home city as each Player may deem appropriate, in order to facilitate their ability to engage in Phase 2 activities,” the memo read.
As part of Phase 2 protocols,” laboratory-based RT-PCR testing” will be administered to all players and team staff 48 hours prior to any individual returning to team facilities — with tests expected to be administered twice weekly for players taking part in these workouts, along with daily temperature checks.
Even if small groups of players can take to the ice, no coaches, skating coaches, other club employees or club contracted representatives are allowed to participate in these “no-contact” practices. Coaches and Hockey Operations Personnel will be allowed to observe — but not participate in — these practices starting at a later date during Phase 2. The memo notes that two weeks after Phase 2 could be a target date.
Along with on-ice work, players can also take part in weight training that doesn’t require a spotter, resistance training, cardiovascular exercises, and endurance training. Both rehabilitation and treatment for players with ongoing injuries is also allowed.
The memo adds: “Each Club will be permitted to have the same maximum number of personnel per small group session, which shall include any number of personnel from the following list, and no other personnel, per session:”
For a full list of details about what players can expect from Phase 2, click here.