VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver has been short-listed for one of two NHL hub cities as commissioner Gary Bettman outlined a four-phase plan that will see games resume in the summer.
No exact date was announced for the resumption of play, but the first phase could see players return to their team cities and start voluntary small-group training by mid-June.
Besides Vancouver, hub city candidates include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Bettman said the final determination on hubs will depend on COVID-19 conditions, testing availability and government regulations.
“We need to be in a position to be doing lots of different testing, without doing anything to disrupt medical needs,” Bettman said in an exclusive announcement on Tim & Sid.
“We want to be in a place that doesn’t have a lot of COVID-19. And we also have governmental issues we have to deal with as to whether or not. When we move, everybody to a hub city, whether or not there are going to be government requirements that we can’t live with like a quarantine for two weeks, so we want to make sure to have lots of options.”
*#Vancouver is one of the cities shortlisted to be a hub city
*24 teams to return
*Will be comprehensive testing
*Phase 2 is early June when teams can return to their practice facilities
*Phase 3 is training camp (likely mid-July) https://t.co/hr0Y1rZ6oL
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) May 26, 2020
Bettman expects to decide on two hubs — one in the east and west — in the next three to four weeks.
“But we don’t know what the world’s going to look like in three weeks to make that decision. We want the best available information, and we believe all of the cities that have been named, and there may be another couple that get dropped in the mix or somebody could drop out. We want to be in a position to make the best decision at the time and not lock ourselves into a place where maybe it won’t look so good in three or four weeks as we’re getting ready to get everybody to convene.”
He indicated Phase 3, including the opening of training camps, wouldn’t start before the first half of July, and that the league would likely be playing into the early fall.
“At this time we are not fixing dates because the schedule of our return to play will be determined both by developing circumstances and the needs of our players,” Bettman said.
The NHL paused play due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11.
NHLPA Executive Board authorized further negotiations with the NHL on Friday over how a 24-team return to play scenario would play out.
Regarding hubs, Bettman said qualifying cities must provide easy access to arenas, practice facilities, hotels and transportation.
“We expect that our clubs will be permitted to travel a maximum of 50 personnel to their hub city. A very limited number of support staff will be able to access the event level at each venue,” he added.
“Comprehensive system of testing will be in place in each hub city.”
The NHL plans to employ a 24-team playoff system with order of finish determined by each team’s points percentage when the season stopped.
The top four teams in each conference will claim an automatic berth in the first round of the playoffs and not have to compete in the play-in rounds. They will, however, play a three-game intra-conference, round-robin to determine Round 1 seeding.
The remaining eight teams in each conference will play a best-of-five qualifying-round series to determine which teams advance to the first round of the playoffs. The games will be played with playoff overtime rules.
It has not yet been determined if the winners of the qualifying round will be re-seeded for the playoffs, or if this will follow a bracket tournament-style format. Bettman also indicated that the Return To Play Committee is still discussing if the first and second round of the playoffs will be best-of-five or best-of-seven, but confirmed the conference final and Stanley Cup Final will be best-of-seven.
Bettman also shared the NHL plan’s for how the draft lottery will be conducted.
There will be 15 clubs eligible to win the first-overall selection: the seven teams who will not resume play and the eight teams that are eliminated in the best-of-five qualifying round.
The draft lottery, however, will be conducted in one or two phases, depending on how the first phase plays out on June 26.
If each of the top three selections are won by teams not returning to play, there will be no need for a second phase of the lottery. Those seven teams will have the same odds of getting a top-three pick as they would have in normal circumstances.
However, because the first phase takes place before play resumes, there will be eight “placeholder” teams. If any of the three draws are won by a resuming team, a Phase 2 lottery will take place before the conference quarterfinal.
In the lottery, only the eight teams eliminated in the qualifying round would be involved and each of them will have the same odds to move into the top three.
When the top three are decided, the remainder of the first round would be slotted in reverse order of 2019-20 points percentage.
“Obviously, these are extraordinary in unprecedented times, any plan for the resumption of play, by definition, cannot be perfect,” Bettman said.
“It is our goal that we will be able to resume play and award the Stanley Cup. We intend to do so within a timeframe that will enable us to get back to a full calendar for the 2021 season,” he added.
“Although we are anxious to get back on the ice, we will not do anything until we are assured by medical professionals and the relevant government authorities that it is safe and prudent to do so.”