National Hockey League agrees on 24-team playoff for coronavirus return, issues remain

Tanya Simon
May 24, 2020

Earlier this week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league was looking at eight or nine cities to be hubs for games, and choosing two or four.

As the NHLPA mentions, many details still need to be worked out before the two sides move forward with plans, and Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports that the National Hockey League must complete its "process" now that it has received the 31 ballots from the team representatives.

The NHLPA's executive board has authorized more talks with the NHL on a 24-team playoff format, the union said in a statement Friday night.

Pittsburgh was six points clear of a playoff spot.

"Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play", the NHLPA said.

The Stanley Cup and the original Stanley Cup are handled after an anniversary event in Ottawa in 2017.

There is no timetable attached to a contemplated 2019-20 restart, though the consensus is that training camps likely wouldn't open until late June or early July.

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Under the proposed 24-team format, Montreal would be the final team to qualify in the East based on a slim points-percentage margin. The top four teams in the Eastern and Western conferences would receive byes but play a round-robin series that could impact first-round seeding.

Numerous other questions remain unanswered, including when players can return to their respective teams and what non-playoff teams will be allowed to do during what could potentially become a 10-month break between games.

The resumption plan calls for 24 teams to participate in a playoff, while the bottom seven clubs would effectively have their seasons finished.

The NHL playoffs usually involve eight teams from each conference, with the victor having to navigate four best-of-seven series following a full schedule.

Also to be determined is which cities will be chosen as hubs.

That admission may seem anticlimactic given leagues and teams around the world are either playing in empty stadiums, or trying to figure out a way to do that during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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