24-team playoff to crown Stanley Cup champion
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) have reached an agreement to resume the 2019-20 season, declaring the regular season complete. The resulting 24-team playoff format is designed to crown a Stanley Cup champion early autumn.
largest professional sports league in North America to announce decisive plans for a return
The National Hockey League is the largest professional sports league in North America to announce decisive plans for a return, following a suspension of activity for over two-and-a-half months because of COVID-19.
Full training camps to resume July
Bettman revealed on Tuesday that 24 teams would return, when medically cleared, for a unique playoff tournament. The day before, the NHL issued a 22-page memo detailing testing and safety protocols for voluntary practices at team facilities.
Dubbed Phase 2, initial training sessions can begin in early June, providing local shutdown ordinances have been lifted. Bettman stated that the league “[remains] focused on the safety of our players, coaches, support staff and arena personnel.”
season will conclude with the presentation of the Stanley Cup to the 2019-2020 champion
Full training camps for all players, coaches, and medical staff are scheduled to begin July 1 at the earliest. Following the playoffs, the season will conclude with the presentation of the Stanley Cup to the 2019-2020 champion early autumn.
Two chosen cities to host playoffs
The 24-team format will be hosted in one hub city apiece, chosen from the Eastern and the Western Conference. Candidates include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver.
Training camps will be allowed 50 employees
Bettman said training camps will be allowed 50 employees, which includes players, coaches, medical staff, and club officials. All individuals will be tested for the coronavirus throughout the process. The NHL Commissioner did not say whether fans would be allowed to attend the games, which will be televised.
Donald Fehr, leading the Players’ Union, cautioned that although the Union had concurred with the league on the announced plans, there could be changes before play resumes. These include health and safety protocols, together with some remaining financial matters to be addressed in talks leading up to the playoffs.
“This is a living document and we have to make sure that logistically, we can actually implement the steps,” Fehr said.
Eight teams to receive first-round bye
When hockey resumes, the playoff will follow the format approved last week by the executive board of the NHLPA, expanding the field from 16 teams to 24. The teams qualified based on their points percentages at the time the season was suspended.
The top four teams in each conference will receive a first-round bye, and will play three conference-based games each to determine their seedings, one through four. The remaining 16 teams will then commence a best-of-five series, with eight teams advancing to the second round.