More than two and a half months after shutting down because of the coronavirus outbreak, the National Hockey League became the largest North American professional sports league to announce definitive plans for a return.
Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the N.H.L., announced on Tuesday that 24 teams, the top 12 in the standings for each conference, will return to contest the playoffs when medically cleared. Official training camps would resume no earlier than July 1. The regular season was officially declared complete.
“We remain focused on the safety of our players, coaches, support staff and arena personnel,” Bettman said. “We will not set dates, choose sites or begin to play until we know it is appropriate and prudent and are approved to do so.”
The N.H.L. issued a memo on Monday that detailed testing and safety protocols for all personnel returning to team facilities for voluntary practices, beginning in early June, pending local shutdown ordinances’ being lifted.
Following that, Bettman outlined what the league is calling Phase 3, a conference-based round-robin playoff, hosted in two hub cities. The cities will be chosen from a list that includes Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Edmonton, Alberta; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Pittsburgh; and Toronto.
Only 50 members of each team’s personnel will be allowed in the hub city.
The last N.H.L. games were played on March 11, the same night that Rudy Gobert of the National Basketball Association’s Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus while his team was in Oklahoma City to play the Thunder. That game was canceled, and most sports leagues’ events, including Major League Baseball’s spring training, were called off the next day.
Some sports have trickled back already, including NASCAR, and soccer and baseball in some countries. The PGA Tour announced plans to resume play on June 11 without fans in attendance and with testing procedures for golfers and caddies.
The National Football League is scheduled to start as planned in September, but the major American sports leagues that would have been in season now — men’s and women’s professional basketball and soccer, M.L.B. and the N.H.L. — have faced daunting challenges with safety measures and logistics.