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NHL Announces Return to Play Plan

Philadelphia Flyers v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL is moving forward with plans to return to play, with the League releasing their full plan earlier today that includes a proposal for training camps and a 24-team playoff.

Here are some highlights from the League’s full proposal:

  • The regular season is officially in the books, with preliminary seeding set based points percentage as of March 12
  • 189 regular season games still on the schedule will not be played
  • No timeline has been set for play to resume, as dates are dependent on COVID-19 conditions, testing ability and government regulations
  • The Draft Lottery to determine he order of the first 15 draft picks in this year’s entry draft will be held on June 26
  • Phase 2 will begin early June - teams can return to home facilities and, where allowed by local governing bodies, begin voluntary small group training
  • Phase 3 will not start until at least the first half of July, with the resumption of training camps
  • Phase 4 will be the start of the playoffs, date TBD
  • Play will be centered in two hub cities, one per conference, with the following format:

Round Robin: The top 4 teams play for First Round seeding (regular-season overtime rules in effect)

Qualifying Round: The remaining 8 teams play best-of-5 series to advance to the First Round (playoff overtime rules in effect)

First Round and Second Round: Format (seeding vs. bracket) and series lengths to be determined

Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final: Best-of-7 series

Read the full release from the NHL below:

NEW YORK (May 26, 2020) – The National Hockey League announced today a Return To Play Plan for the 2019-20 season, highlighted by a modified competitive format in which 24 teams will return to play and vie for the Stanley Cup at two “hub” cities beginning later this summer. The Plan also includes an outline for the return of NHL players to their Club training facilities (Phase 2) and formal training camp (Phase 3), as well as information regarding the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.

Today’s announcement follows approval of the Plan by the League’s Board of Governors and the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

The NHL paused its season on March 12 from concerns over the coronavirus, having played 85 percent of the 2019-20 regular-season schedule that started in early October (1,082 of 1,271 games).

“At the pause, we committed to resuming play only when appropriate and prudent,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman. “We are hopeful the Return To Play Plan will allow us to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup in a manner in which the health and safety of our players, on-ice officials, team staff and associated individuals involved are paramount. Accordingly, an essential component of the Plan is a rigorous, regular schedule of testing.

“On the hockey side, the return-to-play format reflects the League’s extraordinary competitive balance while honoring the tradition and integrity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“The Return To Play Plan is the result of weeks of constructive dialogue with the National Hockey League Players’ Association and we are grateful for their cooperation. We also thank our consulting health experts and the local, regional and national authorities who are helping steer us through a complex set of issues.”

And here’s Commissioner Gary Bettman on the Return to Play Plan and Draft Lottery: