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As MLB sets 2020 season in motion, a new set of questions emerges – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – After months of slow-moving negotiations between baseball’s players and owners, there’s finally a path ahead toward a 2020 MLB season.

On Monday night, MLB owners voted to put in motion plans for a shortened 60-game season and at long last, a painful back and forth ended without a negotiated agreement. Now, the focus will shift from the bargaining table to the field — pandemic permitting, that is.

For a sport that’s generated headlines for the wrong reasons of late, that’s a good thing. But it’s not quite so simple, either. The recent talks between players and owners will have lasting fallout, and there are still countless logistical questions to be answered as baseball’s return to play plans take shape.

At this point, many of these pressing questions don’t have answers. So in the absence of clarity, let’s start by simply identifying some of the many decisions approaching in the coming days and months…

What’s next?
The league has asked players for answers to two questions by 5 p.m. ET Tuesday:

1. Are players able to report to camp within seven days?
2. Do players agree with the owners on health and safety protocols?

Given that players have consistently pushed for more games, it stands to reason that they’ll be willing to report within a week. If and when MLB gets clarity on that front, schedule-makers can start planning for the shortest season in baseball history. Then, we’ll see a 60-game sprint to the finish this summer.

The health and safety questions are far more complex, but if players approve the suggested protocols, they’ll be expected in spring training on July 1 with regular season games beginning later in the month.

Where will teams hold spring training?
For 29 teams, the answer to this question seems relatively simple. The rise of COVID-19 cases in Florida and Arizona coupled with the arrival of warm summer weather means every American team can prepare for the season from their home stadiums.

For the Blue Jays, it’s not so simple. While they’d prefer to play their regular season home games in Toronto this year, the federal government has restrictions in place due to the pandemic, and non-essential travel is not permitted between Canada and the U.S. until July 21 at the earliest.

In theory, an exemption of some kind could allow the Blue Jays to train out of Rogers Centre, but that would require swift government action since players will likely be due to report to spring training next week.

Alternatively, the Blue Jays could return to Dunedin, Fla. and resume their preparation there, but their spring facility closed last week after a player showed symptoms consistent with the virus. At this point, it’s unclear how soon the facility will be safe again. In the meantime, the Blue Jays are believed to be working through their options with no clear answer yet established.

Either way, they’ll have to make a decision soon so players can book flights and find accommodations.

Who plays whom?
While nothing can be finalized until players sign off on a start date, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday that MLB plans to limit travel by having teams play within their own divisions and the corresponding geographic division in the other league.

For the Blue Jays, that would mean games against the AL East (Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles) and NL East (Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Mets, Marlins).

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

What about expanded playoffs?
Expanded playoffs have long intrigued MLB decision makers, and they became especially intriguing once the pandemic led to dramatic drops in revenue across the sport. With that in mind, the final proposal MLB made to the players included an expanded playoff field of eight teams per league.

But the players rejected that proposal Monday night and once the owners went ahead without a negotiated agreement, the playoff field locked in at five per league for 2020. At some point that topic will likely resurface with owners pushing for more October qualifiers and players using that possibility as leverage for concessions of their own.

How does this impact the 2021 CBA negotiations?
Ideally, these talks would have brought the players and owners together ahead of their next negotiation, the collective agreement that expires following the 2020 season.

Instead, the league-mandated season leaves many issues unresolved. Among them…

• When will MLB implement a permanent universal DH? (There may be a universal DH in 2020, but NL pitchers are expected to hit again in 2021)
• When will MLB expand the playoffs?
• What will the draft look like going forward?
• And alongside those issues, there’s the biggest question of all: What do the sport’s economics look like?

Finding common ground on that front would have proved challenging regardless of how these 2020 talks unfolded. After months of leaks and public name-calling ended in failed negotiations, the challenge of dividing the sport’s revenue may be more daunting than ever.

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Can the players still file a grievance?
As negotiations unfolded in recent weeks, MLB asked players to waive the right to file a grievance against the owners for failing to negotiate in good faith only to have players decline. Because MLB’s working to impose a season unilaterally, players still have the right to grieve if they so choose, and in the view of some industry observers that possibility gives the MLBPA leverage.

“That’s worth a lot to them,” one agent said.

In the next year and a half, we’ll find out what players intend to do with it.

Either way, how do they play safely?
Even though plans for a season are now taking shape, the owners and players still face the same issue that led the these negotiations in the first place: the pandemic. As veteran left-hander Brett Anderson tweeted Monday, “What happens when we all get it?”

To avoid that possibility, teams and players will do their best to come up with and implement health and safety practices. But think about how many people are required at the ballpark even on days fans aren’t admitted. Security staff, trainers, kitchen staff, front office executives, cleaners, groundskeepers, umpires and clubhouse attendants will all be in the stadium, too.

And if keeping that environment safe sounds challenging, remember that players will still eat and sleep away from the stadium, where they could come into contact with COVID-19. In places like Florida where the infection rate is high, that’s a real risk. The recent outbreak in Phillies camp makes that much abundantly clear.

If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is. For every question MLB answers this year, a few more will likely be waiting around the corner.

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NHL, players’ association reach tentative agreement on protocols to resume season – Global News

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The NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed Sunday on protocols to resume the season, a major step toward the return of hockey this summer.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press there was an agreement on protocols for training camps and games and the sides are still negotiating an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which is crucial to the process.

A person with knowledge of the situation said the return-to-play protocols would only go into effect if each side votes to approve the full package of the CBA extension and return-to-play agreement. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because CBA talks are still ongoing.

Read more:
Behind the Game: The hard work and passion needed to be an NHL video coach

To complete a return, two-thirds of the league’s board of governors and majorities of the players’ executive committee and full membership must vote in favour.

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If everything is ratified, it will end a pandemic-forced shutdown that began in mid-March. Games would resume in late July or early August with 24 teams taking part in an expanded playoffs, finishing with the Stanley Cup being awarded in October.

The agreement was first reported by TSN.






3:31
Toronto considered as NHL hub city


Toronto considered as NHL hub city

The 47 pages of protocols outline the health and safety measures the league and players agreed to after several weeks of negotiations. Any player has until 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday to notify his team if he’s choosing to opt out of participating in training camp and games, with an additional deadline expected after ratification of the agreement.

For those playing, each team is limited to 30 skaters and an unlimited amount of goaltenders for camp and total roster of up to 31 players for games. Each team is limited to 52 personnel in its game city, a group that must include two trainers, a doctor and compliance officer in addition players, coaches and management.

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They are expected to be quarantined from the general public during play at least for the qualifying and first two traditional playoff rounds. Family members will be permitted to join when play is moved to one city for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.

Read more:
26 NHL players diagnosed with coronavirus since early June, league says

All team and league employees plus hotel, restaurant and arena staff coming in contact with players will be tested daily in the two “hub” cities.

One player’s positive coronavirus test result is not expected to shut down play entirely. The league has said it would isolate any player or staff member who tests positive, acknowledging an outbreak would threaten the remainder of the season.

“The players will be pretty well-protected from being exposed,” Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said during a conference call in June. “It’s going to be a completely different way for you all and us watching hockey and being around a team because players will be really well protected throughout the process.”

The protocols include a provision for Commissioner Gary Bettman in consultation with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr to postpone, delay or cancel games in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.






2:14
Challenges of restarting sports leagues amid pandemic


Challenges of restarting sports leagues amid pandemic

Assuming the protocols are approved, teams are expected to open training camps July 13 before travelling to the two hub cities for games. Players have been able to skate and train off-ice in voluntary, small-group workouts since June 8 — nearly three months after hockey was halted March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.

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Returning for the playoffs is seen as a stirring victory for the NHL, which like other top leagues faced the prospect of losing millions more without the television revenue tied to the post-season. There were deep concerns about cancelling the rest of the season and word of positive tests didn’t help: 26 players since June 8, in addition to almost a dozen before that.

Boston defenceman Matt Grzelcyk called the positive test results “eye-opening” but expected. A few players expressed concerns in recent weeks about the uncertainty surrounding a return.

Read more:
The New Reality: COVID-19’s impact on playing and watching sports

“We have obviously a unique situation right now,” Montreal goaltender Carey Price said. “The NHL and the NHLPA are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. Moving forward I’d like to play, but we have a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of scenarios that need to be covered.”

If the protocols and an CBA extension cover those scenarios for enough owners and players, there will be a path forward to hand out the Stanley Cup. Only twice since 1893 has the Cup not been awarded: in 1919, when the final couldn’t be completed because of the Spanish flu pandemic, and 2005 when the season was wiped out by a lockout.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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NHL, NHLPA tentatively agree on protocols to resume play as CBA talks continue – Sportsnet.ca

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The NHL and NHLPA have tentatively agreed on protocols to resume play, Sportsnet can confirm. The two sides continue to negotiate an extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

Once a CBA extension is agreed upon, the NHL’s board of governors and the full membership of the NHLPA will vote on both the extension and the return-to-play protocols that were agreed to on Sunday.

The newly agreed-upon protocols cover Phase 3 and 4 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, this includes a framework for how the return-to-play would be called off if the COVID-19 virus cannot be contained.

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, the return-to-play protocols include an opt-out clause for any player that does not want to resume play this season without penalty. He adds that coaches will not be required to wear face coverings on the bench during games and no dress code will be imposed upon players on game day.

Friedman also reports that the return-to-play protocols include a framework for how the league’s two hub cities will be enforced.

“Individuals leaving… without permission may be subject to consequences up to and including removal,” Friedman reports the agreement as saying, adding “violations… will result in, for clubs, significant penalties, potentially including fines and/or loss of draft choices.”

Additionally, Friedman reports that all players will undergo “a Pre-Participation Medical Examination.” If the doctor administring the exam and the team’s infectious disease expert determine a player is unfit to return to play due to the “substantial risk of developing a serious illness” from COVID-19, that player may seek a second opinion.

In May, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to a framework for what return to play would look like and the two sides have been negotiating finer details ever since. The return-to-play format will see 24 teams return to the ice in two hub cities, each hosting one conference. The top four teams in each conference by points percentage at the time of the season pause in March will play each other to determine playoff seeding. The next eight teams in each conference have been paired up based on points percentage and will play best-of-five series to determine the other playoff spots.

The NHL initially was considering 10 cities to be hubs for these games, with Edmonton and Toronto expected to be chosen.

The NHL’s return plan has been broken down into four stages. Phase 1 began shortly after the season was suspended and saw all team facilities closed and players allowed to return home. Phase 2 began June 8 and is ongoing, with players allowed to return to team facilities to skate in small groups after testing negative for COVID-19. According to the NHL, from June 8 to 29, more than 250 players were tested under Phase 2 protocols and 15 tested positive. Additionally, 11 players tested positive outside of Phase 2 protocols in that same time period.

Phase 3 of the return plan would cover training camps for the returning teams and eventual travel to the hub cities while Phase 4 would cover playing games. Specific dates for the beginning of these phases won’t be determined until the CBA negotiation is complete and the board of governors and NHLPA membership approve the plans and CBA in a vote.

With files from The Associated Press

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NHL, NHLPA agree on protocols to resume season – CBC.ca

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The NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed Sunday on protocols to resume the season, a major step toward the return of hockey this summer.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press there was an agreement on protocols for training camps and games and the sides are still negotiating an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which is crucial to the process.

A person with knowledge of the situation said the return-to-play protocols would only go into effect if each side votes to approve the full package of the CBA extension and return-to-play agreement. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because CBA talks are still ongoing.

To complete a return, two-thirds of the league’s board of governors and majorities of the players’ executive committee and full membership must vote in favour.

If everything is ratified, it will end a pandemic-forced shutdown that began in mid-March. Games would resume in late July or early August with 24 teams taking part in an expanded playoffs, finishing with the Stanley Cup being awarded in October.

The agreement was first reported by TSN.

Assuming approval from owners and players, teams are expected to open training camps July 13 before travelling to two “hub” cities for games. Players have been able to skate and train off-ice in voluntary, small-group workouts since June 8 — nearly three months after hockey was halted March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.

Returning for the playoffs is seen as a stirring victory for the NHL, which like other top leagues faced the prospect of losing millions more without the television revenue tied to the post-season. There were deep concerns about cancelling the rest of the season and word of positive tests didn’t help: 26 players since June 8, in addition to almost a dozen before that.

Boston defenceman Matt Grzelcyk called the positive test results “eye-opening” but expected. A few players expressed concerns in recent weeks about the uncertainty surrounding a return.

“We have obviously a unique situation right now,” Montreal goaltender Carey Price said. “The NHL and the NHLPA are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. Moving forward I’d like to play, but we have a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of scenarios that need to be covered before I could vote yay or nay.”

Once play resumes, one player’s positive coronavirus test result is not expected to shut down play entirely. The league has said it would isolate any player or staff member who tests positive, acknowledging an outbreak would threaten the remainder of the season.

The league will be in charge of testing players daily once they get to their game city.

“The players will be pretty well-protected from being exposed,” Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said during a conference call in June. “It’s going to be a completely different way for you all and us watching hockey and being around a team because players will be really well protected throughout the process.”

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