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NHL, players' union approve return-to-play plan, four-year CBA extension

NHL, players' union approve return-to-play plan, four-year CBA extension
The Stanley Cup Final is expected to begin Sept. 22 and end no later than Oct. 4. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

July 10 (UPI) -- The NHL and the players' union ratified plans to resume the 2019-20 season in August and approved a four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement, the sides announced Friday.

The NHL Players Association on Wednesday started a full-membership vote on both the return-to-play plan and the CBA, and the voting concluded Friday.

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"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 Friday.

"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.

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"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."

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

The qualification round will consist of five-game series between the Nos. 5-12 seeds. The top four seeds in each conference earned a bye and will compete in round-robin games against each other to determine seeding.

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After the seeds are determined in each conference, the Stanley Cup playoffs will continue in its traditional format.

The Stanley Cup Final is expected to begin Sept. 22 and end no later than Oct. 4. The NHL Draft is tentatively set for Oct. 9-10.

After the four-year extension, the collective bargaining agreement will now run through the 2025-26 season. The current CBA -- ratified in January 2013 -- was set to expire in September 2022.

Among the most significant elements of the new collective bargaining agreement is language that would allow NHL players to return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026, pending an agreement with the IIHF and IOC.

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The NHL didn't allow players to compete in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang for the first time since 1994, angering many players who hoped to represent their countries.

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