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A Return to the Ice

The NHL and NHLPA came to agreement to restart the 2019-2020 season. Here's how they'll pull it off...hopefully.

When the NHL season abruptly and officially ended on March 12 amidst the coronavirus outbreak, the league immediately entered Phase 1 of the process to reopen the league. Phase 1 involved the assembling of the Return to Play Committee, made up of league officials and the NHL Players Association. During Phase 1 meetings between the two sides, the plans were drawn and the agreement was made for the process to return to the ice. This plan was broken into 4 Phases. Phase 1 was the meetings, Phase 2 would be returning to training sites, Phase 3 would be Training Camp and Phase 4 would be the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Monday, June 8 marked the beginning of Phase 2, when all 31 teams were able to reopen training facilities in their home cities allowing players to train on and off the ice on a voluntary basis. This was not a training camp program, this was an opportunity for players to resume and maintain their conditioning in a safe environment. Phase 3 began on July 10 and consists of a formal training camp with organized team activities. and if all goes well, we can expect Phase 4 to begin on August 1.

Phase 4 will be the actual dropping of the puck. Scheduled to begin August 1, teams will participate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs....with a slight twist. Ok, a major twist! 24 of the 31 teams will participate in an in-conference tournament, followed by qualifying rounds, and then the traditional Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here’s what you can expect in the near future:

The Top 12 teams from each conference, based on highest regular season points percentage, will be tournament eligible. The remaining seven teams entered the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery. Each conference will be assigned a hub city with safe and secure hotels, transportation and facilities for the duration of post season play. The hub cities selected, Toronto and Edmonton, will host the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, respectively, at Soctiabank Arena and Rogers Place. Canada is currently experiencing much less of a negative impact from COVID-19 than the United States, and the NHL felt is was much more reasonable to return to play North of the border.

Here’s a breakdown of how the postseason (Phase 4) will work:

- The top four teams from each conference will play a four-team Round Robin session to determine the top four seeds. Points percentage will determine tiebreakers, if necessary.

- The remaining eight teams (5-12 seeds) will face off in a Qualifying Round, best-of-five series to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

-The Stanley Cup Playoffs will then consist of the remaining eight teams from each conference, with each round consisting of the traditional best-of-seven series through the Stanley Cup Final. At the conclusion of each round, the teams will be re-seeded, with the highest-remaining seed facing the lowest-remaining seed.

In what will surely be an interesting change to the norm, every single one of the remaining games will take on more significance. On any given day, there could be as many as six games being played, three in each arena. But one thing is for certain, hockey fans everywhere are excited to see their favorite players and teams return to the ice...hopefully.


Brandon Rice

CIH Contributor

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