The NHL Players’ Association Executive Committee authorized further discussions with the league about returning to play from the suspension of the corona virus, approving 24 teams to make the playoffs with other aspects remaining to be seen negotiated.
The NHLPA did not break down the vote of its 31 players’ representatives in the announcement on Friday evening, a day after the proposal was presented to the union’s executive board. To give the format the green light, the NHLPA emphasized that several details still need to be negotiated before games can begin.
The proposal now goes to the NHL board, which is expected to approve the plan in the coming days. Once approved, the proposal ends the season of the league’s bottom seven teams, including the Ducks and Kings.
Under the plan proposed by the NHL / NHLPA Return to Play committee, the four best teams from each conference played against each other in a mini-tournament to seed, while the remaining 16 teams competed in a best-of- five series play-in round to place the last 16 to compete for the Stanley Cup.
While approval is considered important, finding a path to get players back on the ice remains a challenge.
The next step would be for the Return To Play commission to take care of many other things, ranging from health and safety protocols to determining where matches are played, as the league prepares to group teams in a select number of hub cities .
Las Vegas has become the city most cited as a potential location, mainly because of the large concentration of hotels that can accommodate countless teams. Other cities mentioned are Columbus, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee; Raleigh, North Carolina; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Edmonton, Alberta.
Numerous other questions remain unanswered, including when players can return to their respective teams and what non-playoff teams are allowed to do during what could potentially be a 10-month break between games.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league has drawn up a plan but has not provided details saying it would be premature at this time.
“All good questions and all questions with answers. But currently unable to answer any of them, ‘Daly wrote in an email. “If and when we can make an announcement, we’ll try to make sure they get answered in that context.”
The league has at least the framework of a plan to further expand for the first time since the regular league on March 12.
Games would likely be played without fans present. It is unclear how the league will address players’ concerns about spending potentially long periods of self-isolation away from their families.
Both sides agree that there is no ideal plan, but recognize the limitations they face because of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. The NHL regular season was interrupted on March 12, with 189 games remaining and 31 teams playing an odd number of games.
“It is clearly not ideal, but I think that in such a time everything can be super traditional?” Toronto Maple Leafs defender Tyson Barrie said this week. “I think we should all adapt and be willing to adapt and be a little aware that it won’t be these perfect classic NHL playoffs. I think it’s fine for the situation we are in right now a year. ”
Under the proposed 24-team formula, Montreal would qualify as the last team in the East based on a small margin of points. With 71 points in 71 games (.500), the Canadiens scored Buffalo, who had 68 points in 69 games (.493) and would extend the league’s longest active playoff drought to a ninth consecutive season.
The difference in the West is much greater, with Chicago (.514) beating Anaheim (.472). All three teams in California would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1995-1996.
One person with what would be one of the seven non-playoff teams, told The AP that the performance staff is already preparing training programs for players over a long period of layoffs.
“Overall, I think players will do well in the summer months,” said the person, under the condition of anonymity, as the return to the playing format has not been approved. “It will be challenging to find creative ways to keep them motivated in the fall.”
The NHL is open to the fact that the playoffs stretch into September and push the start of the 2020-21 season as late as January – or when fans can attend matches in some capacity.
Whatever it takes, Winnipeg Jets Patrik Laine says Friday.
“I just want to play and I can do whatever format they decide,” said Laine. “It’s just still hockey, but I don’t mind the size. It’s no problem for me.”
Carolina Hurricanes representative Jordan Martinook said finishing the season and awarding the Stanley Cup would be quite an achievement.
“In a year of so much negativity and uncertainty, for you to have such a party, I think it would be a big positive for you, your family, your team, your city,” said Martinook.