A look at how North American sports are doing in their plans to return

As areas of North America work toward easing restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sporting landscape that had ground to a halt three months ago is starting to re-emerge.

Auto racing and horse racing have both resumed, as have golf and mixed martial arts fights. Other major sports are in various stages of putting a plan to return to competition in action.

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Here's a look at where some of the major sports in North America are at:

HOCKEY

The NHL and NHL Players' Association announced Thursday that they are looking to open training camps for the 24 teams returning to play on July 10, provided there are acceptable medical and safety conditions and the parties reach an agreement on resuming play.

The opening of camps would kick off Phase 3 of the NHL's plan to return to action. The plan is currently in its second phase, meaning teams can open their facilities and allow players to voluntarily train in small groups.

The league and the players' association said the length of the camps and the start date for resumption of play (Phase 4) will be determined at a future date.

The return-to-play blueprint — which will eventually require the approval of health and government officials to get off the ground in two "hub" cities — would begin with separate, three-game round-robin tournaments for the top-4 clubs in both the Eastern and Western Conference.

The league said any ties at the end of round-robin play will be broken by regular-season points percentage, and that the seeding order will stay the same throughout the playoffs.

The remaining franchises would take part in eight best-of-five qualifying round series, leaving the NHL with its traditional 16-team playoff.

Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto are among the 10 finalists to act as one of the two hub city, though the mandatory 14-day quarantine at the national border could adversely affect those cities' chances if it remains in place.

All Canadian NHL teams except Ottawa would return to play under the 24-team format.

BASKETBALL

The NBA is working on a 22-team format for the resumption of play, which was approved in a unanimous vote by the National Basketball Players Association. The league would play the remainder of its games with no fans at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex at the Disney campus near Orlando next month. The plan still faces hurdles, primarily in the areas of health and safety.

The season would resume July 31, with playoffs starting in mid-August and leading up to an NBA Finals that could stretch until Oct. 12.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields.

The defending champion Toronto Raptors held down the second seed in the Eastern Conference when play was suspended.

Meanwhile, ESPN has reported the WNBA has proposed a 22-game season starting July 24 with all games in Bradenton, Fla.

BASEBALL

Unlike the NHL and NBA, Major League Baseball hadn't started its season when the COVID-19 pandemic halted sports. The dialogue between teams and players to come to an agreement has been contentious.

Players have offered to cut the regular season to 89 games but have remained adamant they receive full prorated salaries.

MLB's latest offer was for just under US$1.3 billion in salaries, but only about $1 billion would be guaranteed. The rest is contingent on the post-season's completion.

A 50-game schedule with prorated salaries would total just over $1.2 billion.

MLB says that because the season likely would be played in empty ballparks without fans, the absence of gate-related revenue would lead to a loss of $640,000 for each additional game played, a figure the union questions.

FOOTBALL

The CFL has pushed back the start to its regular season to September at the earliest, but commissioner Randy Ambrosie has said a cancelled campaign also remains a definite possibility for the gate-driven league.

Ambrosie has requested financial assistance from the Canadian government. It asked for $30 million immediately, additional monies if the 2020 season began late and up to $120 million for the worst-case scenario — the cancellation of the entire campaign.

The COVID-19 pandemic also forced the CFL to change its 2020 Grey Cup plans. Regina was to host this year's game but instead will stage the '22 contest.

Meanwhile, the NFL and the NFL Players Association sent a planner to the 32 teams Monday outlining procedures for the full reopening of their practice facilities.

No timetable has been set for the return of most players to team complexes — only players rehabilitating injuries have been allowed to enter the buildings. But this is the next major step toward allowing all players back in club facilities. The season still is slated to start in early September.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer announced the "MLS is Back Tournament," a World Cup-style event that will run July 8 through Aug. 11 in Orlando.

All 26 teams, including Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps, will take part in the event, which like the NBA will be housed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

The MLS tournament, which will be played before empty stands, marks a resumption to the league's 25th season, which was halted March 12 after two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hope is the league, once the Florida tournament is completed, can continue the regular season with a revised schedule in home markets.

Meanwhile, all eight Canadian Premier League will be back in training as of this week. The league is looking at a tournament to kick off the revamped 2020 season in July with Prince Edward Island and Vancouver Island leading candidates to host.

The National Women's Soccer League plans to return for the Challenge Cup tournament, with all nine teams in Utah starting June 27.

GOLF

The PGA Tour returned to action Thursday, without fans, at the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Country Club in Forth Worth, Texas, with a field that included Canadians Adam Hadwin (Abbotsford, B.C.) Corey Conners (Listowel, Ont.) and Mackenzie Hughes (Dundas, Ont.).

The event at Colonial is taking place in the slot on the PGA Tour schedule originally held by the RBC Canadian Open. But the event that was to take place at Toronto's St. George's Golf and Country Club was cancelled, and the Charles Schwab Challenge, postponed from its original May 18-24 date, was moved into the vacant slot.

The LPGA is set to play its first tournament since breaking for the pandemic July 23-26, with the Marathon Classic in Ohio. The CP Women's Open, Sept. 3-6 at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver, is still on the schedule.

Meanwhile, the PGA Tour Champions' Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary has been cancelled, as has the Mackenzie Tour, which is a professional development circuit in Canada.

TENNIS

The ATP and WTA professional tours have been suspended through July. The women's Rogers Cup event women's event in Montreal, originally scheduled to start Aug. 7, has been cancelled. The men's Rogers Cup in Toronto, scheduled for the same time, is still on the schedule. The ATP has said it will make a decision on whether to cancel the men's tournament by Monday.

AUTO RACING

NASCAR resumed racing May 17 at Darlington Raceway, and plans to let a limited number of fans attend races later this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

IndyCar held its season-opening race on Saturday in from of empty stands at Texas Motor Speedway, with a field that included James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont. The revised schedule has led to the circuit dropping some of its races this year, including the Honda Indy Toronto, originally scheduled for July 10-12.

The Formula One season will begin with back-to-back races in Austria next month. The Canadian Grand Prix, originally scheduled to start Friday in Montreal, has been postponed.

HORSE RACING

Horse racing in Canada resumed May 25 at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg. It has since returned to Fort Erie, Woodbine Mohawk Park and Woodbine Racetrack in Ontario. All races have been run without fans.

The Queen's Plate, the opening jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, is now scheduled for Sept. 12 at Woodbine.

In the U.S., the Triple Crown starts June 20 with the Belmont Stakes in New York, traditionally the final race in the series.

MMA

The UFC returned from a brief hiatus on May 9 and has since staged three shows without fans in Jacksonville, Fla., and two at its production facility in Las Vegas. It plans three more shows in Las Vegas this month. It is also planning four events next month on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island, or as the UFC calls it, "Fight Island."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020.

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