What Phase 2 of Return to Play plan means for Vegas Golden Knights

Some Vegas Golden Knights players will be able to hit the ice again soon thanks to the NHL.

Announcing details of Phase 2 of their Return To Play plan today, the NHL will allow the Vegas Golden Knights and its other members to start opening up team facilities in the coming weeks.

There are more than a few caveats in place, but it is another huge step forward in the wake of the NHLPA voting yes on the 24-team Playoff format.

While there is still lots of work to be done, and a bevy of complicated kinks to iron out, the NHL is really gathering momentum when it comes to salvaging the 2019-20 season.

And today’s announcement is another positive development with teams allowed to start working out in small groups at team facilities sometime in early June.

For the Golden Knights, who have a lot of their players nearby in Nevada, it will allow them to get the majority of their roster back on the ice at different times ahead of hockey potentially coming back in the summer.

It will be huge for players who haven’t seen a sheet of ice in a couple of months, and it will allow everyone to knock off any rust and start getting back into the swing of things.

In what was a 29-page document sent out to teams and players last night, we’ve highlighted the key points of Phase 2.

It is worth noting, however, that nothing has been said about Phase 3 or Phase 4 yet, which would see the start of Training Camp and then, eventually, the Return to Play plan.

Let’s delve into the juicy headlines from Phase 2:

1) Small Practices

The main nugget of information to emerge from Phase 2 was the green light that players can skate at the team facility in small groups of up to six people. Only six players can be in the facility at once, while players from other NHL teams will be permitted to use team facilities in the area or State they currently reside in, subject to scheduling guidelines.

However, no coaches or player personnel will be allowed on the ice at the same time as the six players, while goalies can recruit an independent goalie coach to work with him on a one-on-one basis seven days after a goalie’s initial access to the facility.

Skates will be non-contact and the groups of six players will also be allowed to train in the weight room, as long as the social-distancing rules are being adhered to.

For the Golden Knights, they will now be allowed to start drawing up a schedule for their players to start getting back on the ice.

Cody Glass has already been using the facility for his rehab, while this development is huge for Mark Stone, Alex Tuch and Max Pacioretty who will all get to hit the ice again in the wake of their respective injuries.

These are only tentative steps but the fact that players can now start to get back into their usual habitat is huge for the NHL’s plans of resuming play this summer.

Max Pacioretty #67 of the Vegas Golden Knights stands on the ice during warmups.

Max Pacioretty #67 of the Vegas Golden Knights stands on the ice during warmups. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

2) Testing

Players will be tested for COVID-19 twice a week and will be asked to keep a six-foot distance away from each other at all times.

Players and team staff will be given a COVID-19 nasal swab test two days before the commencement of Phase 2, and then they will be tested at least twice per week afterwards. They will also be required to self-administer a temperature and symptom check every single day.

Any player at the facility will also be required to wear a mask at all times, apart from when they are exercising, including when entering and leaving the facility and when social distancing isn’t possible.

It is important to note that testing won’t be done at the expense of taking away from those who really need it.

3) No Access

This is the full list of those not permitted at teams’ facilities:

  • Player Agents
  • Media
  • Massage Therapists
  • Chiropractors
  • Player Performance Personnel
  • Player’s Family Members

4) Voluntary

Perhaps the most important takeaway from Phase 2 is that on-ice sessions will be strictly voluntary.

So, any player that doesn’t feel comfortable reporting to the facility or any player with any underlying health issues won’t need to report to the team facility.

Also, any North American-based players won’t have to rush back to their playing cities in order to take part in Phase 2, which rules out any unnecessary traveling.

For the Golden Knights, they will draw up schedules for those players happy to report to City National Arena in a group of six.

It may be that players with families either stay away or they report together, while those living on their own workout together as long as the group of six rules are being followed.

5) What’s Next

As mentioned at the top, there is no mention in the Phase 2 document, which you can see in full here, of Phase 3 or Phase 4.

Phase 3 will focus on a Training Camp while Phase 4 will delve into exactly how to re-start the 2019-20 season.

Given that the NHL and the NHLPA have lots to thrash out in regards to returning this year, I wouldn’t expect any movement on Phase 3 or 4 anytime soon.

Instead, the fact that Phase 2 is now about to go into motion is a huge positive and it will dictate how the NHL proceeds going forward.

It is good news for the Vegas Golden Knights too who can now begin the process of getting players back onto the ice and back into the swing of things should hockey return this year.