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NHL officially back as league, players ratify deal to return in Edmonton, Toronto

The NHL is officially returning to the ice this summer.

The league and its players union formally signed an agreement Friday that would see hockey return — with hub cities in Toronto and Edmonton.

The sides announced they came to a tentative agreement on Monday. The agreement includes the potential to return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026 and a four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement.

Training camps will open Monday in each team’s home market, with clubs scheduled to head to their respective hubs July 26 before games start to count Aug. 1.

Once in Toronto and Edmonton, players will be kept in so-called “bubbles” — tightly controlled circles with stringent health protocols and daily testing — separate from the general public in hopes of keeping the coronavirus at bay.

The extension of the agreement, which had been set to expire in September 2022, was viewed as a crucial aspect of the return-to-play plan because of the dire economic realities brought on by COVID-19. The new deal runs through at least the 2025-26 season.

“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.

NHL executive director Don Fehr said the agreement was “a meaningful step forward for the players and owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time.”

The second phase of the NHL draft lottery will be Aug. 10, with the eight losing teams in the play-in round entered to determine who gets the first pick in the NHL draft, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9-10.

The last possible day of the Stanley Cup final is Oct. 4.

Each team will be permitted to bring a maximum of 52 people into the secure zones in the hub cities, including a maximum of 31 players.

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