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Gary Bettman announces a plan to return the NHL to play

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Gary came onto our televisions to give us the Good News.

2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series - Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Gary Bettman graced our screens this afternoon to deliver a formal, official announcement of the plans (or parts of plans!) that the league has decided on to get NHL hockey players back on the ice. It was a lot to digest from a relatively short broadcast, so let’s unpack some things, shall we?

These are the important points to note, with regard to the playoffs:

  • There will be 24 teams playing, with the top 12 determined by points percentage at the time of the pause, which was March 12. They do not foresee this beginning before July 1.
  • The remaining seven teams will be in the draft lottery for the top three picks.
  • These playoffs will be played in two hub cities - one for each conference, which have not yet been determined. There are, however, cities that are officially on the short list. They are:
  1. Chicago
  2. Columbus
  3. Dallas
  4. Edmonton
  5. Las Vegas
  6. Los Angeles
  7. Minneapolis/St. Paul
  8. Pittsburgh (gross!)
  9. Toronto
  10. Vancouver

The inclusion of Canadian cities is interesting, given the current closed-border situation, but one assumes a billion-dollar professional sports league finds ways around such things. On we go.

  • Arenas, hotels, and transport for all players and personnel will be secure. Teams are limited to 50 personnel members traveling to the hub city. There will be “comprehensive testing”.
  • As was speculated, the top four teams in each conference will get an automatic berth in the first round; obviously, this is where the Flyers fall. These four teams will play each other in a round robin to determine seeding. These games will be played with regular season rules.
  • The remaining eight teams in each conference will engage in a best-of-five play-in tournament, seeding determined by the aforementioned points percentage. These games will played with playoff rules. The Eastern Conference matchups are: Penguins v. Canadiens, Hurricanes v. Rangers, Islanders v. Panthers, and Maple Leafs v. Blue Jackets. In the West we’ve got Oilers v. Blackhawks, Predators v. Coyotes, Canucks v. Wild, and Flames v. Jets.
  • It seems to be unclear if the remaining playoffs will be a seeded format or a bracket format. Also undetermined is whether the first and second rounds will be five or seven games. Conference and Stanley Cup Finals will be seven games.

Whew, I need a break.

So that was the first part of Gary’s informational television appearance. The second was dedicated to the draft. Gary warned us that it was complicated. Hooo boy buddy was not kidding. Distilling this into bullets doesn’t do it justice, but we’re just focusing on the broad strokes here:

  • The seven teams that will not resume play and the eight teams that lose the play-in series will be eligible for the draft lottery.
  • The Phase One draw will take place on June 26. This is before any games will be played. There will be two phases, with the second taking place between the round robin tournament and the start of the first round. If we’re being honest here, this part of the plan is confusing as hell and surely someone will be doing an in-depth look at how it will all work. What’s important for us is the Flyers are a top four team and needn’t be bothered by draft lottery nonsense.

Man, it feels good to talk about actual hockey things again, eh?

If you missed the broadcast, the NHL was nice enough to provide us with the slides Gary used during the broadcast: