With a date of July 10 still penciled in as official start of training camps across North America, the NHL remains steadfast in its pursuit of resurrecting the dormant 2019-20 season — moving full steam ahead despite a growing surge of COVID-19 cases throughout the U.S.
Still, even with the NHL's steadfast intentions on bringing hockey back on TV and phone screens this summer, these best-laid plans can only fully be enacted once given the green light by the players — with the NHLPA still needing to approve both Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (return to game action) before the league takes another step forward.
And while the allure of playing for Lord Stanley's Cup should be enough to draw every warm-blooded hockey player back to team cities ahead of Phase 3, it's well within these players' rights — hell, given the current climate, it should be expected — for there to be a fair share of questions or reservations about pressing forward.
Whether it be general health and safety, reality of life in a "bubble" environment or the inability to see family for months on end, there are multiple issues that could prompt players to second-guess certain steps taken by the NHL in its "Return To Play" plan, or even sit out the league's resumption of play all together.
Such issues have prompted a number of NBA players to sit out of their league's return to game action down in Orlando — with the likes of Avery Bradley and Wilson Chandler skipping play to be with their families, while pending UFA Davis Bertans is also sitting out to avoid risking injury before a potential hefty pay day.
Even though we have a ways to go before the NHL reaches a point in which players could defer from returning to game action (Phases 3 + 4 need to be approved first), a number of individuals have already raised their fair share of questions about what lies ahead. Last week, Montreal netminder Carey Price believed that there'd be a 50/50 chance that the league and NHLPA would come to terms on an agreement regarding the finer details of training camp and actual playoff matchups.
"I have about an equal amount of optimism and pessimism," Price said. "It's a very unusual situation. I want the opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup, but I want to be able continue living life normally."
So what happens if Phase 3 is ready to be implemented, but a player, citing health or a variety of other reason, opts to sit out what remains of the 2019-20 season?