After a nearly three-month suspension, the NHL is making moves to return to the ice. The league announced further plans for its return-to-play action, include a start date for its next phase and official playoff format.
Teams can permit players into training facilities for voluntary, small group workouts beginning Monday, June 8. It marks the second phase in the league’s overall plan to resume and assumes strict safety measures put in place, should the NHL’s outlined protocol be approved by the NHL Players Association.
“Players will be participating on a voluntary basis and will be scheduled to small groups (i.e., a maximum of six players at any one time, plus a limited number of club staff). The various measures set out in the Phase 2 protocol are intended to provide players with a safe and controlled environment in which to resume their conditioning. Phase 2 is not a substitute for training camp,” reads an official statement from the league released Thursday.
Phase 3 of the plan, formal team training camps, won’t begin before July 10 with the official resumption of games to follow in subsequent weeks. Commissioner Gary Bettman previously announced that when games do resume, the league will adopt a 24-team playoff format and scrap the remainder of regular season games. Details surrounding the altered postseason have also come to light as the league did not initially announce how each round would play out.
The play-in, qualifying round of games will be a five-game series while all remaining rounds through the Stanley Cup Finals will be seven-game series. Following the completion of each round, seeds will be reseeded to see the highest-ranked team take on the lowest-ranked, second-highest play the second-lowest and so forth.
It remains unknown where games will occur though Bettman announced that two hub cities will be chosen for the postseason action: one for the Eastern Conference and one for the Western Conference.