The National Hockey League – NHL – is the first professional sports league to make an announcement on the fate of its season.
On May 26 the NHL announced that the regular season ended on March 11 – one day before play was shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic lock down. Additionally, they will begin post season play in two hub cities with a total of 24 teams.
The playoffs will include a 16 team Qualifying round and Seeding round of round robin play as the teams vie for the Stanley Cup. The top four teams in each conference will earn a bye for the first round. The qualifying rounds will be a best of five game series; while the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup games will all be a best of seven series.
The games will be played in two “hub” cities – one for the Eastern Conference and one for the Western Conference. While the two cities and the dates for play to begin have yet to be announced; Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver are all in the running.
A return to play committee comprised of NHL executives and the NHL Player’s Association; as well as, players from the Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Philadelphia Flyers.
In announcing the post season play, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “I want to make clear that the health and safety of our players, coaches, essential support staff and our communities are paramount. While nothing is without risk, ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so.”
He added, “let me assure you that the reason we are doing this is because our fans have told us in overwhelming numbers that they want to complete the season if at all possible. And our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion.”
Dates will be announced once it has been determined that it is safe to do so. Each team will be allowed to travel with 50 team members including players, coaches, and trainers. Each person involved with the playoffs will include comprehensive testing to ensure the safety of all involved.
The Eastern Conference teams are:
Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Western Conference teams are:
St. Louis Blues
Vegas Golden Knights
The Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings did not qualify for the playoffs and their season is over for this year.
feature photo credit: By Aude – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=433351