National Hockey League returning with 24-team playoff format

May 26, 2020 | Sports

"Commissioner Gary Bettman announces return-to-play format for NHL with 24 teams for playoffs." (REUTERS/ Bob Frid)
Commissioner Gary Bettman, centre, seen here at a Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks game in 2019, announced May 26 the return of NHL hockey with 24 teams in a playoff format. (REUTERS/ Bob Frid)
Abhinav Mendhe

The National Hockey League announced plans to return after a two-and-a-half month break caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The NHL paused the 2019-20 season on March 12. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the NHL’s return with 24 teams competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, announcing that the regular season is complete.

“I want to make clear that the health and safety of our players, coaches, essential support staff, and our communities are paramount,” Bettman said.

“We are not fixing dates or choosing sites until we are assured by medical professionals and the relevant government authorities that it is safe and prudent to do so,” he said.

The teams will start the Stanley Cup playoffs after being cleared medically. The official training camps will resume in the first half of July.

“These are extraordinary and unprecedented times,” Bettman said.

“Any plan for the resumption of play, by definition, cannot be perfect,” he said. ” And I am certain that, depending on which team you root for or which team you cover, you can find some element of this package that you might prefer to be done differently.”

The NHL will begin with qualifying round games and round-robin games in two hub cities.

The list of hub cities being considered include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Twelve teams resuming games in the Eastern Conference assigned for hub city one. The Number 8 Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Number 9 Columbus Blue Jackets. (screenshot from press conference/Abhinav Mendhe)
Twelve teams resuming games in the Western Conference assigned for hub city two (screenshot from press conference/Abhinav Mendhe)

The top four teams in each conference will play intra-conference games with regular season overtime rules to determine overall top seed for the first round of the playoffs.

The remaining teams will play best-of-five qualifying rounds to determine advancement in the playoffs. These games will be played with playoff overtime rules.

Seven teams are out of the running for the playoffs: Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres.

These teams will participate in the NHL Draft Lottery on June 26.

The NHL issued a memo on Monday drawing up testing and safety protocols for all the staff coming back to the team facilities.

No more than 50 members will be allowed from each team’s personnel including players, coaches, and other staff members in the selected hub cities.

“We believe we have constructed an overall plan that includes all teams that, as a practical matter, might have had a chance of qualifying for the playoffs when the season was paused,” Bettman said.

“And this plan will produce a worthy Stanley Cup champion who will have run the postseason gauntlet that is unique to the NHL,” he said.