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Gary Bettman - NHL
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NHL Announces ‘Return To Play Plan’ For 2019-20 Season, Stanley Cup Playoffs

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appears with New York Islanders owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (at microphone) to announce that the team will play any playoff games this year along with their entire regular and playoff schedule for the 2020-2021 season, at the Coliseum during a press conference at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on February 29, 2020 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced a “Return to Play Plan” to become the first of North America’s major sports leagues to release a blueprint for a return to action following the coronavirus pandemic.

Like the NBA and MLB, the NHL had its season halted in March due to the spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, May 26, Bettman said that the 2019-20 regular season is considered completed and the league will resume for the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 24 teams when situations are deemed safe enough to play.

NHL’s “Return to Play Plan”

Bettman announced the following as part of the league’s plan to return to play:

  • Health and Safety are paramount
  • Fans, Players want NHL to resume
  • Guidance from Civil and Medical Authorities
  • NHL-NHLPA Partnership and Cooperation
  • 24 clubs will resume play (top 12 in each conference by points % as of March 12)
  • 2019-20 Regular Season is now complete
  • Each Conference is assigned to a Hub City (TBA) with secure hotels, arena, practice facilities, and transportation
  • Each team limited to 50 personnel in Hub City
  • A comprehensive system of testing

Hub City Locations

The NHL will wait to announce the two “Hub Cities” until more information is gathered and the timeline in the league’s return to play is closer.

Bettman listed the following locations as potential hub cities for the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Edmonton, AB
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Toronto, ON
  • Vancouver, BC

Stanley Cup Playoffs Format

Round Robin: The top four teams in each conference play for first-round seeding

Qualifying Round: The remaining eight teams play a best-of-five series to advance to the first round

First and Second Rounds: The format and series length is yet to be determined

Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals: Best-of-seven series

The NHL hopes to allow players to return to home facilities for voluntary training in early June but formal training camps won’t occur before at least July 1.

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