Despite hurdles still facing the league, fans can take comfort in the fact the NHL is ready to play hockey again, if the green light is given.
Rather than finish the regular season, the league announced today the NHL will go straight into the playoffs with 24 teams instead of 16.
Still to be ironed out is how the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association work through health and safety protocols, not to mention where the games will be played.
The league was halted in March because of the pandemic. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wants to crown a champion this season, but there isn’t even a decision when play can resume.
Teams won’t be able to hit the ice as an organized group just yet. Some protocols are being worked out including letting six players on the ice at a time, no contact and no coach for voluntary workouts. Teams would likely at some point be allowed to hold three-week re-training camps.
The only teams that won’t be around for a new round of hockey will be Ottawa, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Buffalo, New Jersey, San Jose and Detroit.
The top four teams in each conference ranked by points percentage — Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the East and St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the West — will play separate round-robin tournaments to determine seeding.
The remaining 16 teams will be seeded by conference, setting up best-of-five series in the East of No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 12 Montreal, No. 6 Carolina vs. No. 11 New York Rangers, No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida and No. 8 Toronto vs. No. 9 Columbus. In the West, it would be No. 5 Edmonton vs. No. 12 Chicago, No. 6 Nashville vs. No. 11 Arizona, No. 7 Vancouver vs. No. 10 Minnesota and No. 8 Calgary vs. No. 9 Winnipeg.
Toronto, Columbus, Edmonton and Las Vegas are being floated around as host of the games.
Picture courtesy Wikipedia (Gary Bettman)