May 23, 2020

After overwhelmingly voting yes, what’s next for NHL Return to Play Committee

NHL puck (SI.com)

Last night the NHLPA voted 29-2 to accept the 24 Team Playoff format. It was a big first step to getting hockey back, but now there is so much more to work out for the Return to Play committee. While some teams voiced their concerns, like the Penguins who fought hard against a play-in best of three against Carey Price, all but 2 voted to move forward.

Next Steps

While there will be tweaks to the format, one thing to iron out is if the playoffs will reseed or stick with the proposed brackets. That’s going to be the easy stuff. The paramount issue will be safety for all involved from the players to the arena workers, even as they will play without fans.

It is expected that a large amount of testing will be available to the NHL. A recent report coming out of the NBA noted they should have access to enough test kits to move forward. It has also been noted that a positive test would not instantly shut down the league either. ESPN also notes that NBA guidelines are expected June 1st and hub cities to be Vegas and Disney.

NHL net (Mark Humphrey/CP/AP)

Another hurdle many are talking about is getting players back from places where travel has been banned. According to that same ESPN report, the Trump Administration already said they would work with sports leagues to get players back in the U.S. and the same should be the case with Canada.

Hub Cities

The NHL is working hard to get to Phase 2 next month. They want teams to open facilities and start prepping for camps so they can begin play in July. When it comes to where teams will play, it sounds like it would be preferred to put each 12 team conference into one hub city. Two cities starting to stand out are Las Vegas and Edmonton.

Vegas is an obvious choice for many reasons, including the ability to host all teams, families, and workers safely on any massive resort. A state of the art NHL arena is already there and casinos are expected to open June 4th. Another and somewhat surprising front runner is Edmonton. Alberta’s Premier, Jason Kenney believes that Edmonton checks all the boxes for hockey’s return and it’s hard to argue.

“I would say this to the NHL, they darn well better choose at least one Canadian city. I know there’s a big market in the US, but [Canada] is the heart and soul of hockey and I would say that’s especially true of the Canadian prairies, and Edmonton just has that vibe of hockey town. I think it would be a wonderful recognition of this tough, hardworking, northern city that has done so much for the league, and so much for the sport of hockey. It has that history and identity. On top of that, it has the best facilities in the league and happens to be situated in the province with one of the best public health performances in the world dealing with the pandemic. I think the decision is obvious.“

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney

Regardless of what hub cities are chosen the big first step has been taken. More news will start to emerge and we will be here to keep you up to date and break it all down for you.

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