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Acting on new stay-at-home guidelines from the government, the NHL pushed back its return-to-play hopes.

After telling players to remain in their NHL home cities because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the league said Monday they can return to their permanent homes, even in other countries, but they must self-quarantine until the end of March.

This means players won’t be back on skates until early April, and training camps cannot open until late April at the earliest.

It comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation Sunday of no gatherings of 50 or more people in the United States for the next eight weeks.

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That would mean games cannot take place until May 10 — again, at the earliest.

Because these timelines are predicated on the control of the pandemic, they can be further delayed.

The NHL’s return-to-play timeline will begin with small groups skating at team facilities, which are currently closed, and voluntary group practices progressing to a teamwide minicamp.

The Bruins roster is a collection of 11 Americans, five Canadians, three Swedes, three Czechs, two Slovaks, and a Finn. They range from ages 21 (Charlie McAvoy) to 42 (Zdeno Chara). Some have deep roots here (Weymouth’s Charlie Coyle, Charlestown’s Matt Grzelcyk, Walpole’s Chris Wagner), and some are recent transplants (Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, traded here from Anaheim late last month). Their plans for leaving the area will vary.

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The length of the expected layoff means they will need time to ramp up training once they return, to avoid the kind of injuries — groin and hip issues — that often plague players early in camp. This becomes doubly important if the NHL decides to jump right into the playoffs, when competition is the most intense.

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It’s doubtful the regular season can be saved, but in announcing the leaguewide pause last Thursday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he hoped to award the Stanley Cup in 2020.

Bettman reiterated that hope Monday, saying in a SiriusXM interview that “whatever we do will have a credibility and integrity to it.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says they still want to hand out the Stanley Cup this season.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says they still want to hand out the Stanley Cup this season.Ethan Miller

He also said there is a point on the calendar where the NHL will not be able to finish this season, but did not offer a firm date.

Meanwhile, amid rumors the AHL season would be canceled outright, the league told its clubs that it will not return to play before May.

Similar to the NHL, the top minor league recommended teams facilitate the return of players to their hometowns.


Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports