On Tuesday, the NHL announced its plan to move forward with the Stanley Cup playoffs via its Return to Play plan. According to the league’s official website, there are 10 cities currently being considered as the two potential hub sites for the Western and Eastern conferences. Any remaining regular-season games will be canceled.
Sixteen teams will participate in an eight-series Qualifying Round. A Seeding Round Robin will take place among the top four teams from each conference to decide the competitors in the First Round.
“Let me assure you that the reason we are doing this is because our fans have told us in overwhelming numbers that they want to complete the season if at all possible. And our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman in a newly released video.
Bettman continued by saying that they do not anticipate getting back to playing until the summer at the earliest, or potentially even the fall.
The commissioner said they did not yet want to announce dates “because the schedule of our return to play will be determined both by developing circumstances and the needs of the players.”
The Return to Play committee is composed of members from both the NHL Players’ Association, the NHL, and five players.
To keep things as safe as possible for the players, each of the ten cities being considered by the committee, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Columbus, Dallas, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, and Toronto are currently under careful scrutiny to ensure they are safe.
The city selection and start date will “depend on COVID-19 conditions, testing ability, and government regulations.”
To ensure that everything is as safe as possible, a “comprehensive system for testing will be in place in each hub city.”
Teams will only be able to travel with a maximum of 50 personnel altogether, and that includes the coaches, players, and staff members.
On March 12, the NHL officially decided to halt the regular hockey season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Bettman confirmed that it would not be completed. The 12 qualifying teams from both the Eastern and Western conferences were ascertained by utilizing the percentage of the available points.
Not all teams managed to qualify for the playoffs. For seven teams, their season is over. Those teams include the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, and Detroit Red Wings.
The teams that did not qualify will be able to participate in the NHL Draft Lottery, which kicks off on June 26.