VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver Canucks could soon be back in action with teams voting Friday on how to resume the NHL season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NHLPA’s Executive Board — made up of 31 player representatives — is currently voting on a 24-team conference-based playoff set up.
The proposal is close to what the NHL initially suggested.
“The way it would work, it would most likely be set up in two hub cities, with 12 teams in each city. The top four teams in each conference would get a bye and then the teams ranked five through 12 would play each other,” Satiar Shah with Sportsnet 650 explains.
As it stands right now, the Canucks would start by playing the Minnesota Wild in the first round.
“And that first round series would be a best of five to determine the top 16 teams. And then, when you have the top 16 teams like a traditional playoff year, it’s seven game series for each round of those Stanley Cup Finals,” Shah says, adding the top four teams would play each other as “warm up games to stay fresh.”
Not everyone loves this. It is possible, a couple of sources suggested, there will be a push for modifications or further clarifications.
“This is just a proposal on the format itself. Through various insiders, there’s been a pretty spirited debate about whether the teams should return to play,” Shah explains. “It seems like it will pass, the question is how many players will still be uneasy? How do you pull this off?”
However, he notes if the format is approved, there’s still another round of discussions that needs to take place to figure out the details, like COVID-19 testing protocols, which hub cities would host, and visas.
Premier John Horgan has said B.C. is still game to host all the NHL teams since the province has proven it’s flattened the curve.
“I opened up the idea of using Western Hockey League rinks across the province because we do have a rich hockey tradition in every corner of British Columbia, and really superior rinks in places like Kelowna and AHL ranked in Abbotsford, as well as all of the infrastructure that’s in the Lower Mainland,” Horgan previously said.
“Vancouver, again, has the main arena that the Canucks play in. I’ve also got the [Pacific] Coliseum, which with a little bit of spit and polish could be brought back to an NHL standard, I believe, and we also have Langley, and we have Abbotsford, as I say, that could be refurbished, if need be.”
The idea was brought up during a recent meeting with the league’s brass, but no decision has been made.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has already said not awarding the Stanley Cup this season is not an option.
It is hoped results from the vote will be known Friday night.
-With files from Mike Hall