CHICAGO – Some good news came for Blackhawks’ fans in a number of ways last Friday afternoon.
It brings with it both a play to get the team back on the ice, the day in which they’ll do so, and some much needed labor peace in the sport.
The National Hockey League Player’s Association ratified not only the league’s Return to Play plan but also extended the current Collective Bargaining Agreement through the 2025-2026 season.
In the short term, it finally clears the way for the NHL to finish what will end up being a nearly year-long 2019-2020 season. It will included the Blackhawks, who were among the 24-teams to qualify for the restart tournament that includes a preliminary round before the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That’s against the Oilers, who are the fifth-seed in the Western Conference, and Jeremy Colliton’s team will have to do it in their opponent’s hometown of Edmonton. That schedule was released on Friday, with the Blackhawks taking the ice on the first day of the tournament on August 1st.
The Blackhawks will play at least on August 1st, August 3rd, and August 5th against the Oilers, with a possible Game 4 taking place on August 7th along with a decisive Game 5 the next day.
Per the NHL, the games will be played at either 1 PM, 5:30 PM, or 9:30 PM central time.
Should the Blackhawks advance, they would stay in Edmonton until their elimination or they won a championship, with the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Final being staged in that city.
The league has also set October 4th as the last possible day for the Final, with the hope to begin that series no later than September 22nd. The league will proceed with the second phase of their draft lottery on August 10th – which includes the naming of the team with the No. 1 pick – then holding the annual draft on October 9th and 10th.
In the meantime, the Blackhawks will now open training camp on July 13th and will travel to Edmonton on July 26th.
Just as important, though more for the future, is the long-term extension of the CBA, which comes in a sport that’s had a history of work stoppages. Included in this plan would be a return to the Olympics for league players, which players weren’t allowed to participate in during the 2018 games.