NHLPA board voting on playoff format to return, AP source says

The NHL Players’ Association board is voting on a playoff proposal with 24 teams as the return to play, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The person spoke to the Associated Press on Thursday evening on condition of anonymity because the vote was still going on. The results of the vote can be announced on Friday evening.

Even if the board of directors votes to approve the format, it doesn’t mean the deal will resume for the NHL season. The union and the players’ union have yet to negotiate other details, including health and safety protocols.

But the format is a substantial part of the Return to Play puzzle for awarding the Stanley Cup this season.

Under the proposed plan approved by the joint NHL / NHLPA Return To Play Committee, the top four teams in each of the Eastern and Western conferences would compete against each other while the remaining 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series play-in round to place the last 16.

That means saying goodbye to Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the east and defending champion St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the west. Pittsburgh, Carolina, the New York Islanders and Rangers, Toronto, Columbus, Florida and Montreal would also make it in the East and Edmonton, Nashville, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Arizona and Chicago in the West.

If the NHLPA’s board of directors and the league’s board of directors approve the plan, it will be determined who returns. The where, when, and how remains to be determined, including how many cities will host games, quarantine regulations, and testing.

“Nothing is really certain until it is certain, so things can change so quickly and they have different things,” said James van Riemsdyk, Member of the Return to Play committee, on Wednesday. “We try to keep as many options open as possible and navigate through different things and hopefully come up with a vision that is of course primarily the health and safety of everyone.”

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