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Gary Bettman makes formal announcement on the NHL’s return to play plan

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The league has been working behind the scenes to get play back on track.

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

You can read the NHL’s press statement on the return to play plan here.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in a live streamed Zoom call, today announced the NHL’s return to play plan. The league announced yesterday that they will be returning to small on-ice workouts with safety protocols in early June, more than likely next week.

Today’s announcement was the new 24 team playoff format that we all expected. The remaining teams will be shunted off to the draft season.

Two hub cities will host the playoffs, one for the East, one for the West. Arenas, facilities, and accommodations will be secure with 50 personnel per city. To limit the spread of infection, a rigorous testing plan will be in place.

Phase three of the plan will be the opening of training camps, which will be determined by guidance from medical and local communities. Phase three should begin in early July with play through the early fall for the Cup.

Locations for phase three have not been determined yet.

Chicago is an interesting choice.

The play-in format and the seeding round are as follows for the Western Conference:

This of course means that the teams’ end of season seeding potentially no longer matters due to the nebulous possibility that the seeding could have changed in the last three weeks of the season - this drive for an equitable chance is why 12 teams are playing in the post-season, as well.

The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be best of seven, played in the hub cities, and probably lasting through September. Qualifying and first two rounds will be played in under a month, with best of five series.

It’s important to note that its not just the first and second round length that’s TBD with this plan. Host cities are up in the air, and this is all contingent upon public health and safety officials and how comfortable the league is with going forward with this plan. Bettman did not announce any specific dates today, and that’s because no one knows what the date is going to be.

We have a framework, which is more than we had yesterday.