Detroit — The resumption of the NHL season just might have been pushed back.
And that’s all assuming there will be a resumption of the season.
The NHL decided Monday to allow players to return to their offseason homes, a key change in the league’s policy concerning the coronavirus pandemic.
This decision came after a statement Sunday night from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which recommended limiting large events and mass gatherings of more than 50 people covering the next eight weeks.
That in itself put a real damper on the possibility of an NHL season resuming.
But in its new directive, the NHL said in a memo Monday, “effective immediately, players can opt to return home (outside of the club's home city, including outside of North America, to the extent flights are available)."
Originally, the NHL wanted its players to remain close to the cities where they play and self-quarantine, so as to get a better handle on everyone's health and possibly open team facilities for small groups of players in the coming weeks.
But that's not necessarily the case anymore.
Once they get home, players must self-quarantine until March 27 “unless a longer period is required in accordance with local mandates related to travel”.
The NHL said in its memo, "our objective will be that, in addition to continuing regular updates, we will be able to provide high-level guidance on the potential of opening a training camp period roughly 45 days (April 30) into the 60-day period covered by the CDC's directive."
But that depends “on world developments between now and then," the NHL said.
The CDC’s recommendations essentially precludes any games from being played until May 10.
All of it closes the window a little further on a possible return of the NHL, simply because of the time crunch involved.
Allowing players to return to their home countries will make it that much more difficult re-start the season.
With getting players back to their teams, getting checked out medically, having a training camp, and formulating a playoff structure — it simply doesn’t leave much time remaining for an NHL playoff season.