Ever since the NHL was suspended in mid-March due to COVID-19, many have been wondering if hockey may return soon or even at all. Recently, there have been talks of the NHL returning but in a different way. The freshly created Return to Play Committee, which consists of the NHL and the NHL Players Association executives, as well as some high-profile players, have had talks of the season resuming through a 24-team playoff format.
While a lot of decisions still need to be made, the league has made serious progress on this plan. Now, as far as how this format would carry out, it would either consist of six teams from each division or 12 teams from each conference playing their games in one central hub representing each division or conference (the details of how many cities are in play is still uncertain). While a confirmed date is yet to be known, League Commissioner Gary Bettman hopes for a late June/early July return.
In a recent interview Bettman revealed that there are “eight or nine” locations that are being looked at to serve as potential arenas for the teams including Las Vegas, Minnesota, and Columbus. Some Canadian locations were mentioned such as Edmonton and Toronto, but the NHL would need to resolve some issues due to Canada extending its closing of the border. Additional travel issues lie ahead for the league as 17% of players quarantining in their homes are outside of North America. Bettman added that while there is a lot of uncertainty, the league wants to be as prepared as possible.
All of this is subject to change as the league is still monitoring the situation on a daily basis and consulting with medical experts on how they can salvage the season and resume play as cautiously and as safely as possible. The league wants to be as prepared as possible and fully plans on awarding a Stanley Cup this season, even if it means moving the start of the 2020-2021 season to late December.
Elone Safaryan can be reached at [email protected]