With all sports being on pause since late march it has left a lot of fans clamoring for their return of sports to bring a sense of normalcy back to everyday life. One of the professional sports leagues that have been affected the most by the pause has been the National Hockey League (NHL). With the conference finals of the Stanley Cup playoff to be played around this time if the world were back to normal.
But that has not been the case and the longer the NHL waits the harder it will be to restart the league as the NHL has been admitted they do not want to change the start of the 2020-21 season as well as finishing the 2019-20 season this year.
The NHL has more to worry about when it comes to preparation for the season to continue. As the players have been sent home to their respective countries until the NHL can start with a pre-restart training camp. The League has to also find a way to have good playing conditions in the summer months as that is a problem for teams that play the Stanley Cup Final in June. Now the playing surface has to be in the best condition for the remainder of the season as it will most likely be played in late July early August and conclude in September which is a problem for the league but is being addressed. The biggest news to come out concerning the NHL restart is the plan for a restart looks to be a 24-team tournament in late June/ Early July.
This would be to expand the playoffs to a 24-team tournament from the usual 16 leaving out the bottom 7 teams to which are at the bottom of the league and who would be eligible for the draft lottery when the draft takes place. This is an answer to the question about what would happen to the teams who are in the hunt or the playoffs but, are a few points out of a spot. With the 24-team tournament format, it would put the teams in a position to be one of the 16 teams chasing the Stanley Cup.
Addressing the issues for where the games would be played. The answer the NHL is considering is to have all 24 teams play at the higher-seeded team’s city to start the tournament, with permission from the state government to have the event with no fans then, as the tournament would continue in neutral locations where COVID-19 is past its peak in the location. As for player they would be all held in hotels with social distancing being heavily enforced as that has been one of the big questions asked by fans and critics how will the league keep their players safe if and when the season restarts.
Will this idea be what brings hockey back only time will tell? In the end, fans hopefully won’t have to wait that long for puck drop and the chase for the Stanley Cup to start.