Details have trickled out over the last few days but today, NHL commissioner confirmed what many suspected. The League plans to return to action with a 24-team tournament to decide the Stanley Cup. Bettman and the league are now the first sport to announce such a plan.
According to Bettman, these are the several cities they are looking at as hosts:
— Full Press NHL (@FullPressNHL) May 26, 2020
Most importantly, the league will look to restart things in mid-July with the opening of a training camp for those teams participating in the tournament. That will represent Phase 3 of a four-phase plan that ultimately ends with the awarding of the Stanley Cup.
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According to Bettman, the top four teams in the East (Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay) and the top four in the West (St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas, Dallas) will play an intraconference round-robin tournament to determine seeding for the following round. These games will be played under regular season rules; shootouts and five min overtime included. The remaining 16 teams will play a best-of-five series to enter what would be, traditionally, the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
NHL Play-In Round Matchups
|Eastern Conference||Western Conference|
|Maple Leafs||Blue Jackets||Flames||Jets|
They have yet to determine how the teams will be seeded, whether it be by standings or brackets. Additionally, after the play-in round, the league has not determined whether they will be best-of-five or seven, however, both the Conference Finals and the Stanely Cup Final will be a best-of-seven series.
Here are some other key items from the Gary Bettman news conference:
- Teams can return to practice facilities in early June.
- Return-to-play will be conducted in four phases.
- 2019-20 regular season is officially complete, closing the book on all the award and scoring races
- Bettman expects rounds one and two to last about a month and that the entire playoff could run into the early fall.
- Although cities have yet to be chosen, there will likely be one from the east and the west
- The Draft Lottery will include the seven non-playoff teams in addition to the eight teams that will be eliminated in the play-in round.
- Will take place on June 26th and it could be the first of three potential phases
Now, not every team is going to be happy with the format. Columbus and Tampa Bay voted against the 24-team playoff format. However, that is not to say they are not happy to return to the ice. All the players and owners and fans understand there is no perfect solution in this scenario and ultimately, hockey being played is better than hockey not being played.