Here we go! The National Hockey League has agreed to a plan to eventually attempt to finish the 2019-2020 season – sort of.
The National Hockey League has been dormant since mid March and this is welcome news to be sure. Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement earlier this afternoon. In it, he outlines the format under which the league will forego the remainder of the regular season and proceed to the playoffs. Instead of the usual 16 teams, the field will be expanded to 24 teams. That leaves 7 teams (Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, and Buffalo Sabres) on the outside looking in.
The first thing that Bettman does is assure everyone that the health and safety of everyone involved in this endeavor – from players and coaches to front offices and support staff around the league – is priority #1. With that in mind, no concrete steps forward will be taken without the assurances of medical professionals as well as relevant government authorities.
He goes on to outline the format for the playoffs, which will ultimately take place in two “hub cities” that have yet to be determined. One city will host the 12 Eastern Conference clubs, while the other city will host the Western Conference contenders. Comprehensive testing and additional precautions will be established in each city.
The hope is that playoff clubs will be able to enter “Phase 2” of the plan sometime in early June. This would allow teams to return to their home facilities and begin on and off ice training. If all goes well and the appropriate medical and governmental hurdles are cleared, then “Phase 3” would commence – formal training camps. This would ultimately lead to “Phase 4” – which would see all clubs relocate to the hub cities ahead of the resumption of play.
You can watch the commissioner’s entire announcement below:
We may still be in “Phase 1”, but this announcement serves as a major step towards a return to live sports. There are still A LOT of moving parts, and nothing is 100% guaranteed, but it’s something we sports fans can all hang our hats on. Now we just need to adjust to the idea of ice hockey possibly. being played in the summer. What could be more 2020 than that?