More Details Emerge on NHL Return to Play

Firstly, I wanted to comment on yesterday’s post. Those were merely my opinions on the matter at hand. We live in a world where politics comes into our lives constantly whether we want it to or not. I was stating my opinion on the matter and I did not wish to trample on anyone’s feet. I stand by my opinions, but do not wish them to be taken as gospel.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: hockey! The NHL has made some more details on the Return to Play plan a little clearer to the fans.

In an updated article on NHL.com by Tom Gulitti, it was mentioned that “189 games will not be completed” and that the league will go into a Qualifying Round (which I believe is not considered a part of the playoffs, if I am understanding things right. They will reportedly be using regular season overtime and shootout rules in this round, for instance.) and round-robin to seed the playoffs. It will take place “in two hub cities” and the dates are to be determined. The hub cities will also be announced at a later date.

The Qualifying Round and the playoffs are anticipated to take place “over the summer and into the early fall” according to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in the Gulitti article.

The major news that we will be hearing, hopefully soon, is the length of the first and second round series. According to Gulitti, the Return to Play Committee (which includes NHL executives as well as NHLPA executives and five players: Ron Hainsey of the Ottawa Senators, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets, John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs and James van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers) has yet to decide on this detail.

According to Gulitti, the Eastern and Western Conference Finals will be best-of-seven games series, as will the Stanley Cup Final. Gulitti said that Bettman told NBCSN that “there is a slim possibility the final three series can be played in the home arenas of the teams that reach those rounds, but that would require a substantial change in the outlook of the pandemic.” He continued that it is more likely that “all games will be played in the hub cities without fans in attendance.”

Bettman also said in the NBCSN interview that “it’s not required that the Eastern Conference teams have to play in an Eastern hub city and the Western Conference teams have to play in a Western hub city.”

The hub cities, Gulitti pointed out, “will depend on the circumstances in that city.” He cited that, although “Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver are among the cities being considered, the current edict in Canada requiring those who enter the country to be quarantined for 14 days would probably preclude one of those cities from being selected.” Bettman said that they “are talking to the Canadian government about it” because “if we get done with training camp and we want to go to a Canadian city and to do that we have to quarantine for another 14 days, that isn’t going to work.”

Gulitti said that those training camps “could open no earlier than July 10 as part of Phase 3 of the Return to Play Plan, and Commissioner Bettman said the NHL believes the qualifying and first two rounds of the playoffs can be completed in a little more than a month.”

All of this is being done to crown “a worthy Stanley Cup champion who will have run the postseason gauntlet that is unique to the NHL” as Bettman put it.