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NHL details plan to return to play with 24-team playoff

Credit: Patrick Smith

NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman revealed the National Hockey League's Return to Play plan as the league will go straight to the Stanley Cup playoffs in a 24-team format and cancel the remainder of its regular season.

Bettman made it clear their ultimate goal is safety for players, teams and staff as they look forward to get back on the ice.

The plan is broken down into four steps with the first step being the top 12 teams in each conference making the playoffs, but 5-12 seeds will play in a qualifying round (best-of-five series), while the top 4 teams will play in a round robin format to determine the seeding in the first round. The first round and second round of the playoffs could be a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. The Conference Finals, and Stanley Cup Final will be a best-of-seven series.

The NHL also announced their will be two hub cities that will host each conference for hotels, arena, practice facilities, and transportation. The league has not made its decision on the two cities due to the unpredictability of the coronavirus.

Here's a list of the cities that are up for consideration:

  • Chicago

  • Columbus

  • Dallas

  • Edmonton

  • Las Vegas

  • Los Angeles

  • Minneapolis/St. Paul

  • Pittsburgh

  • Toronto

  • Vancouver

Here's a breakdown of how each conference seeding has been determined:


  • Round Robin for seeding in first round:

1) Boston Bruins

2) Tampa Bay Lightning

3) Washington Capitals

4) Philadelphia Flyers

  • Best-of-Five qualifying round

5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12) Montreal Canadiens

6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11) New York Rangers

7) New York Islanders vs. 10) Florida Panthers


  • Round Robin for seeding in first round:

1) St. Louis Blues

2) Colorado Avalanche

3) Vegas Golden Knights

4) Dallas Stars

  • Best-of-Five qualifying round

5) Edmonton Oilers vs. 12) Chicago Blackhawks

6) Nashville Predators vs. 11) Arizona Coyotes

7) Vancouver Canucks vs. 10) Minnesota Wild

Teams that are eligible for the playoffs will return to their home facilities for voluntary on-ice training in the next couple weeks and training camp will begin no earlier than July 1.

The NHL has given a positive outlook for fans being the first major sport in the United States to lay out a public plan of how they are going to proceed their 2019-2020 season. Expect the NBA to follow suit in a similar fashion by ending the regular season and going to straight to the playoffs. While the MLB has not started its regular season, it should be expected that it is a shortened season at some capacity.


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