It remains to be seen if any player even gets inside the “secure zone” the NHL hopes to create in Edmonton and Toronto this summer.

But the consequences for leaving that highly controlled area and re-entering during a season restart are already tentatively set: At least four days confined to your hotel room, with four consecutive negative results needed from coronavirus tests before you’re able to resume practising, playing or just walking around the bubble.

That’s part of a dense booklet of protocols finalized Sunday, but still subject to ratification by NHL players and owners. Voting should happen in the coming days, once the NHL and NHL Players’ Association finish the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement and tie up other loose ends.

The protocols they agreed to for Phase 3 (training camps) and Phase 4 (competition) are at once expansive and open-ended.

For example, it’s not entirely clear how players with an excused absence for the birth of a child, or an illness or death in the family, will be reintroduced to the bubble beyond needing to produce the series of four negative tests.

As for those who leave without permission? Well, that infraction comes with punishments designed to keep players from even thinking about it, including a strict quarantine for up to 14 days, refusal of access back into the bubble and the possible dismissal from being part of the competition phase altogether.

And any team that violates the rules will be subject to “significant penalties, potentially including fines and/or loss of draft picks.”

These protocols offer the clearest picture yet of what a 24-team playoff tournament might look like in lockdown, assuming that can be pulled off. The creation of the “secure zone” is essential to finishing off the NHL season and it’s going to demand a lot of participants.

Here’s a look at how it’ll operate:


No player is required to attend training camp or take part in the season restart if he’s unwilling. Everyone has a penalty-free option to opt out that requires such a decision to be communicated to your team in writing beforehand.