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NHL Announces Return-To-Play Plans; Eyeing Early June To Start ‘Phase 2’

The National Hockey League has announced a plan to enter into what they are calling “Phase 2” of their Return-To-Play plan. Phase 1 started with just players and coaches postponing all hockey activities in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Now, Phase 2 is more on the bright side and is focuses on bringing back the sport of hockey in time to finish out the season and crown a champion.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is targeting for Phase 2’s launch to come early June. While this is certainly exciting, it’s worth mentioning there are many other aspects to identify and tackle before fans receive hockey again. Phase 2 is by no means a complete return to gameplay. This is described as a noncontact skating for players in small groups at team facilities. Again, the league is hoping to start this phase up in early June but a definite date is not yet known.

Phase 3 will involve formal training camps which are targeted “no earlier than the first half of July” and that again doesn’t give us an exact date either. Phase 4 is the meat and potatoes of the entire plan and of course, the one fans and everyone involved with hockey will love. That, of course, is the formation of the newly-revealed 24-team NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here’s a list of host cities the NHL is mulling to use in continuation to resume play.

  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Edmonton, AB
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Toronto, ON
  • Vancouver, BC

Each conference is going to be assigned a hub city with secure hotels, arena, practice facilities and in-market transportation. That means that the East and West will each have their representative hub city which has not yet been revealed. The league will be limiting the team’s personnel to 50 people that can operate in the hub city with only a small number of support to staff to enter event areas. Again, the sites are not yet known as all we know are the host cities that could be selected to be the two hub cities for the list above.

24-team playoff format:

Each conference will have teams seeded by points percentage.

Round Robin for Top Seeding for First Round

WEST

  • St. Louis Blues
  • Colorado Avalanche
  • Vegas Golden Knights
  • Dallas Stars

EAST

  • Boston Bruins
  • Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Washington Capitals
  • Philadelphia Flyers.

Qualifying Round for Play-In Teams for Second Round

WEST 

  • #5 Edmonton Oilers vs. #12 Chicago Blackhawks
  • #6 Nashville Predators vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes
  • #7 Vancouver Canucks vs. #10 Minnesota Wild
  • #8 Calgary Flames vs. #9 Winnipeg Jets

EAST

  • #5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #12 Montreal Canadiens
  • #6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #11 New York Rangers
  • #7 New York Islanders vs. #10 Florida Panthers
  • #8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #9 Columbus Blue Jackets

First Round and Second Round

  • Seeding vs. Bracket
  • Series Lengths are not yet known

Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final

  • Best-of-7 series

There’s a long way to go before the NHL can resume hockey games but today’s press conference steered the league in the right direction and has put them on track to make the return that many felt might not happen this season.

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