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Blues set to return to ice in 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Aug. 2

If the Blues want to repeat as champs, they'll have to do it in Edmonton

ST. LOUIS — The National Hockey League Players’ Association and NHL ratified a four-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement through the 2025-26 season and a Return to Play Plan on Friday.

In a NHLPA vote of nearly 79 percent, the agreements pave the way for the resumption of the 2019-20 NHL season toward the crowning of a Stanley Cup champion by early October and provide an updated economic framework for the league and its players, including addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following a 142-day pause, the NHL will drop the puck with a five-game schedule of Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Saturday, Aug. 1 with no fans in the building.

As for the Blues, who are part of the Western Conference Round-Robin along with the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars vying for the top four seeds before the first round begins, they will head to Edmonton on June 26 following two weeks of training camp, or Phase 3, slated to begin on Monday.

The Blues will take on the Avalanche on Aug. 2, Golden Knights on Aug. 6 and Stars on Aug. 9, with all round-robin games slated for 1 p.m. (CT) starts.

When competition resumes, the 12 participating Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto, while the 12 participating Western Conference teams will compete in Edmonton. The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final will take place in Edmonton. Each team will be permitted to bring a maximum of 52 individuals into the secure zones in the hub cities, including a maximum of 31 players.

In keeping with the league’s commitment to the health and safety of all participants, each of the 52 Club personnel will live inside a secure bubble, or the Phase 4 Secure Zone, and will be tested daily for COVID-19 as well as being administered daily temperature checks and symptom screenings. As well, individuals who might have direct or indirect contact with NHL teams will be tested daily. Any person inside the secure zone who tests positive will immediately be isolated.

"Today, the NHL and the NHLPA announced a significant agreement that addresses the uncertainty everyone is dealing with, the framework for the completion of the 2019-20 season and the foundation for the continued long-term growth of our League," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "I thank NHLPA executive director Don Fehr and special assistant to the executive director Mathieu Schneider, the more than 700 NHL Players – particularly those who worked on our Return to Play Committee – and the NHL’s Board of Governors for coming together under extraordinary circumstances for the good of our game. While we have all worked very hard to try to address the risks of COVID-19, we know that health and safety are and will continue to be our priorities. We know that all of our fans are excited about our return to the ice next month and that has been our goal since we paused our season on March 12."

The league has been on pause since March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

"This agreement is a meaningful step forward for the players and owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time," Fehr said in a statement. "This would not have happened but for the enormous contributions that the players made throughout, particularly those who served on the negotiating and Return to Play committees, as well as those on the executive board. I also thank Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the NHL staff for their efforts towards finding solutions to the problems we face. Most importantly, we are pleased to be able to bring NHL hockey back to the fans. We look forward to the NHL’s continued growth here in North America and on the world stage."

Some of the Return to Play highlights include:

Games have been scheduled on a staggered basis, providing hours of continuous action. The start times for the 10 days of Stanley Cup Qualifiers in Toronto : 11 a.m. (all times central), 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. In order to maximize the viewing experience for fans across North America, the start times for the three game windows in Edmonton are: 1 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and may fluctuate by up to 30 minutes during the qualifying round.

The Stanley Cup Qualifiers featuring the 16 teams that are contesting best-of-5 series to determine the eight teams advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, commonly referred to as the qualifying round, will begin on Saturday, Aug. 1, with five games: three in Toronto (Carolina vs. NY Rangers, Florida vs. NY Islanders and Montreal vs. Pittsburgh) and two in Edmonton (Chicago vs. Edmonton, Calgary vs. Winnipeg).

The Stanley Cup Qualifiers featuring the top four teams from each conference to determine seeding in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, commonly referred to as the round robin, will begin on Sunday, Aug. 2, with two games, one in each hub city: Boston vs. Philadelphia (at Toronto) and Colorado vs. St. Louis (at Edmonton).

Television listings will be released in the coming days for all games.

Exhibition games will be played June 28-30; Phase 2 of the NHL Draft lottery is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9-10; the Blues and the remaining 16 teams for the first round of the playoffs will begin Aug. 11, second round games begin Aug. 25, conference final games begin Sept. 8, the Stanley Cup Final begins Sept. 22 with the conclusion to run as late as Oct. 4. And the NHL Draft will be Oct. 9-10.

Training camps for the 2020-21 season is tentatively scheduled to start Nov. 17 and the regular season is tentatively scheduled to start Dec. 1.

An extension of the CBA allows the league and players to weather the storm created by COVID-19. 

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