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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 off on 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. Reported details of the agreement include 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 new agreement would bring at least 14 consecutive years of NHL-NHLPA harmony after lockouts wiped out the 2004-05 season and cut the 1994-95 and 2012-13 campaigns to 48 games.

While details of the agreement, which would last through the 2025-26 season, weren’t made public Monday, it’s believed the salary cap, escrow payments from players to owners and Olympic participation all figure prominently. Escrow, which guarantees a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, was a thorny issue for players before the pandemic significantly impacted the league’s bottom line when the schedule was suspended March 12.

More to come

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