The Nationwide Hockey League on Tuesday sketched out plans to renew the paused 2019-20 season with an expanded 24-team playoff late in the summertime, however there are nonetheless many questions that should be answered earlier than the puck is dropped in an NHL recreation.
Hockey turned the primary amongst main American sports activities leagues to element its postseason path with a plan to finish the common season and go straight to the playoffs. It entails gathering the 12 finest groups in every convention via March 11 and gathering them in two places for a number of playoff rounds.
The NHL was cautious to not decide to a timeline for its summer time of hockey. However one factor is evident: there may not be a Stanley Cup champion till effectively after Labor Day.
“I feel it’s conceivable that we’re enjoying on the finish of July or the start of August, after which enjoying into September,” mentioned NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “But when it has to slip extra, it’s going to slide.”
Beneath the proposal, the highest 4 groups within the East—Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia—and the West—St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas—would get a first-round bye, but in addition would play a spherical robin in opposition to one another to find out seeding. These groups would face the winners of a play-in sequence of the convention’s backside eight groups. Bettman promised that the convention finals and Stanley Cup Finals can be seven-game sequence, though earlier rounds could also be shorter.
“We imagine we will get the qualifying and first two rounds of playoffs accomplished in little over a month,” mentioned Bettman.
That timeline is optimistic, contemplating that the expanded playoff may characteristic as many as 112 video games, ought to the primary three rounds be performed as five-game sequence. Concentrating the groups in two hubs would save journey days. However the league and the gamers have but to debate how a lot time ought to separate video games.
Moreover, there have been no agreements reached on compensation, well being and security and myriad logistical points, corresponding to lodging, transportation, meals, or whether or not households can share resort rooms with gamers within the hub cities.
The postseason would even be preceded by voluntary small-group exercises after which obligatory coaching camps. The casual coaching interval is essential, as scores of gamers misplaced entry to rinks and weight rooms throughout lockdown. Solely a handful of skaters rehabbing accidents had entry to residence ice. Even Sidney Crosby, who’s been quarantining at his Edgeworth, Pa., residence needed to make do with a stationary bike at first.
The NHL will defer to native public well being officers on when it’s protected to embark on the casual exercises, although the league is hoping for some golf equipment to start in early June. Gamers already dwelling of their golf equipment’ residence market can begin skating two days after testing unfavorable.
Issues get trickier for skaters who opted to shelter-in-place elsewhere, who could face journey restrictions from their residence international locations and a compulsory 14-day self-quarantine from the league. This could possibly be a big hurdle for the NHL, the place 74% of energetic gamers are born exterior of the U.S. and 7 of the franchises are Canadian.
The U.S. Division of Homeland Safety has declared skilled athletes returning stateside exempt from its journey bans, and the NHL has secured permission from the Canadian authorities for gamers to cross the Canadian border. Nonetheless, in keeping with deputy commissioner Invoice Daly, there may be “no decision but” on modifications to Canada’s obligatory 14-day quarantine the federal government requires for all folks getting into the nation.
The NHL proposes to check all gamers and personnel 48 hours earlier than returning to services plus not less than twice weekly thereafter ought to “extra testing capability” exist. The tempo of testing will improve in part three and the league hopes to check all gamers daily as soon as competitors within the hub cities begins. Ought to a participant check constructive, they are going to be required to isolate whereas the remainder of their teammates forge on—a significant shift in threat mitigation since American sports shuttered in March following a Utah Jazz participant’s constructive check.