NHL, NHLPA approve restart plan, 4-year CBA extension

The NHLPA and the NHL board of governors announced Friday night that they have approved a package that not only will allow the league to restart this summer but also includes a four-year CBA extension.

The NHLPA on Wednesday started a full membership vote on both return to play and the CBA, and voting concluded Friday.

Training camps for NHL teams will open Monday. The 24-team tournament will then begin on Aug. 1 in two hub cities -- Edmonton for the Western Conference, and Toronto for the Eastern Conference.

To maximize the number of games televised, start times will be scheduled on a staggered basis with the 10 days of qualifying games in Toronto slated to start at noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET. The start times for the three game windows in Edmonton will be 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET. The windows for the games in Edmonton might fluctuate by up to 30 minutes during the qualifying round.

The qualification round will include five-game series for the Nos. 5-12 seeds. The top four seeds in each conference earned a bye and will play round-robin games against one another to determine seeding.

The NHL is creating a bubble environment in two campus-like setups, with players and staffers being tested daily for COVID-19. Players' families will not be able to join them in the hub cities until the conference finals, which are expected to take place in Edmonton.

Players have three days to inform their teams, in writing, if they want to opt out of this summer's tournament. There will be no punishment for players who choose to do so, and the players do not need to cite a specific reason.

The NHL paused its season on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the league is determined to award a Stanley Cup this summer. According to a new critical dates calendar, the Stanley Cup Final is expected to begin Sept. 22 and end no later than Oct. 4.

The NHL draft is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9-10.

The NHL is targeting a Dec. 1 start date for the 2020-21 season, although that is subject to change. According to multiple sources, the league is keen on having an 82-game schedule next season, even if that means awarding the 2021 Stanley Cup in July.

The CBA extension is significant for a league that has seen three work stoppages under commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure. The current CBA was due to expire in September 2022. The new CBA would overwrite the agreement for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, and add another four seasons.

Among the most significant components of the new CBA is language that would allow NHL players to return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026 -- pending an agreement with the IIHF and IOC.

The NHL did not permit players to attend the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang for the first time since 1994, which angered many NHL players who cherish the opportunity to represent their countries.