NHL, players approve plan to resume season, extend CBA

St. Louis Blues

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI – JANUARY 24: Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Calgary Flames competes against Jordan Binnington #50 of the St. Louis Blues in the Bud Light NHL Save Streak during the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Pro hockey’s return is potentially three weeks away, and with it an assurance of labor peace through September 2026.

In separate votes announced Friday, the NHL board of governors and members of the NHL Players’ Association ratified a return-to-play plan slated to have games begin in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, on Aug. 1.

The voting process also included both sides approving a four-year extension to the current collective bargaining agreement which provides the league a comprehensive path out of the economic challenges raised by the new coronavirus pandemic.

The agreements were tentatively agreed to on Monday, and approved nearly four months to the day since the NHL halted its season with 189 games remaining.

Barring a setback, hockey is scheduled to resume with an expanded 24-team playoff format involving the top-12 teams in each of the Eastern and Western Conferences, beginning with a qualifying round and the first two rounds played in Canada. If all proceeds as planned, the Stanley Cup Final would begin in late September, and the 2020-21 season opening in December.

The 24 teams can now plan to open training camps on Monday, which will also serve as a deadline for players to opt-out of competition without penalty. The teams are then scheduled to travel to their respective hub cities on July 26.

By STEPHEN WHYNO and JOHN WAWROW, AP Hockey Writers

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