Instant analysis: How NHL’s ‘return to play’ plan impacts the Flyers

Flyers warmup at Wells Fargo Center

Yesterday, the NHL provided further detail regarding compliance for the second phase to continue the 2019-2020 playoffs. It was only three days ago that the NHLPA approved the 24 team Stanley Cup playoff format. Tentative dates show the beginning of phase two will begin in early June. Phase three is dependent on how well phase two accommodates player health due to the pandemic.

What presents itself is the option for players to practice at NHL training facilities. This means that small-groups can condition on the ice or conduct weight training in the gym. Phase three would be the start of a three-week training camp for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Allowing small groups of players to begin conditioning and training helps limit the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Phase two will focus on small groups of players returning while phase three will expand that size of player groups. This is a precaution of measuring how successful the NHL return-to-play plan before throttling into the three-week training camp. If all of this works out according to plan, the NHL will initiate phase four; playing hockey.

How This Affects the Flyers

Some of the Philadelphia Flyers players have remained local between the Wells Fargo Center and the Skate Zone in Voorhees. The majority of players and coaches have traveled home to be with their families. Players from other countries are exempt from travel restrictions assuming that quarantine guidelines have been followed and tests are negative for COVID-19. Using public transportation means a player needs to quarantine for fourteen days. Only after the player quarantines for fourteen days and passes the COVID-19 screening are they allowed to work out at the Skate Zone.

During phase two, every player will go through COVID-19 testing two days before entering the Skate Zone and every two weeks after. Players will also have their temperatures taken two hours before appearing at the Skate Zone daily. Any temperature above 99.5 will be reported along with any common COVID-19 symptoms. If a player tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracing will be conducted. In the event a player or staff member tests positive, it doesn’t mean the entire team must be quarantined.

Phil Murphy, Governor of New Jersey, gave the green light for sports teams (such as the Philadelphia Flyers) to schedule on-site training at their facilities (such as the Skate Zone.) Some of the precautions include masks to be worn upon arrival and departure, groups of six Flyers players will schedule different times to work out on the ice and the facility must be thoroughly cleaned before the next group can arrive, and no contact drills are allowed during phase two. The Skate Zone has two rinks and locker rooms, so twelve Philadelphia players will be able to practice in the building at capacity. In the gym, workouts that require a “spotter” are prohibited. Alain Vigneault will not be allowed at ice level with the players, but he will be available to observe practices from the balcony.

Outside of the facilities, players are discouraged to spend time with each other during phase two. Social distancing practices are enforced inside of the Skate Zone. It’s standard to typical quarantine guidelines while at home for the players.

Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre