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NHL announces return to play for the 2019-2020 season

Video Credit: Reuters - Sports - Duration: 01:13s - Published
NHL announces return to play for the 2019-2020 season

NHL announces return to play for the 2019-2020 season

The National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman says the sport will go straight into an expanded 24-team playoff format and all games will be held in two hub cities if action resumes this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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RESENDING WITH UPDATED SCRIPT VIDEO SHOWS: STATEMENT BY NHL COMMISSIONER GARY BETTMAN, FILE FOOTAGE OF WASHINGTON CAPITALS TRAINING AND THEIR VICTORY PARADE AFTER WINNING THE STANLEY CUP SHOWS:

Class="kln">WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES (FILE) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 1.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS TEAM TRAINING NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (MAY 26, 2020) (NHL - MUST COURTESY NHL) 2.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NHL COMMISSIONER, GARY BETTMAN, SAYING: "Good afternoon.

I am delighted to be with you today to announce our resumption of play and the format for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and the 2020 NHL Draft lottery." WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES (FILE - JUNE 12, 2018) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 3.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS STANLEY CUP PARADE NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (MAY 26, 2020) (NHL - MUST COURTESY NHL) 4.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NHL COMMISSIONER, GARY BETTMAN, SAYING: "As we seek some return to normalcy this is an important day, particularly for NHL fans.

Since March 12 we have been hopeful and optimistic that by developing all options and alternatives we could get to this point.

I know I join sports fans everywhere we cannot wait for our players to hit the ice again and I look forward to the greatest privilege of all - presenting the most stories and coveted trophy in all of sports to the captain of the 2020 Stanley Cup champions." STORY: The National Hockey League will go straight into an expanded 24-team playoff format and all games will be held in two hub cities if action resumes this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Commissioner Gary Bettman said on Tuesday (May 26).

Bettman, in a televised address, said 10 hub cities are under consideration but he did not give a potential start date for the Stanley Cup Playoffs or say when NHL players can even return to team facilities for voluntary workouts.

Bettman also said he does not anticipate training camps opening before the first half of July, which means the playoffs, which typically run from mid-April to mid-June, could possibly not start until August.

The cities being considered to host playoff games without spectators are Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.

Bettman's comments came a day after the NHL said in a memo to teams that it was targeting early June as the start date for Phase 2 of its Return to Play plan, which would include opening practice rinks for small, voluntary group workouts.

The 31-team NHL, which has 24 clubs in the United States and seven in Canada, has been in Phase 1 of its return-to-play protocol since players were advised to self-quarantine in mid-March when the coronavirus brought live sports to a standstill.

The final two phases of the return-to-play protocol would see full team training camps followed by a resumption of games.

When the NHL suspended play in March as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus there were still three weeks and 189 games left in its regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs scheduled to end in June.

But Bettman said the regular season is now over and the NHL, when cleared, will instead get right into postseason action.

Under the unique playoff format, the top four seeds in each conference - based on points percentage from the regular season - will receive byes through a play-in tournament but would take part in a three-game round-robin to stay fresh.

The other 16 teams in the expanded field would compete in a play-in round featuring best-of-five series to determine the rest of the a traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoff bracket.

First- and second-round playoff matchups could be either best-of-five or best-of-seven series, Bettman said.

Under the usual format, the NHL playoffs feature eight teams from each conference, with the Stanley Cup champion having to navigate four best-of-seven series.

Only twice before has the Stanley Cup not been awarded: in 1919 because of the Spanish flu; and in 2005 when the season was called off due to a lockout.

(Production: Peter Bullock)




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