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Report: NHL making progress on return-to-play format

FILE - In this May 28, 2018 file photo NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a news conference prior to Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final hockey game between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

The National Hockey League has made progress on negotiating a format for resuming its season that paused in March because of the coronavirus.

According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the NHL and NHLPA’s Return to Play committee continued talks over this weekend ahead of a Monday board of governors meeting. The result of the weekend talks, LeBrun wrote, was progress toward a 24-team playoff format that had been rumored even back near the beginning of the league’s hiatus.

The 24-team expanded playoff would be an increase of eight teams from the normal 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs. LeBrun reported that this proposal calls for some games to be played before commencing the 24-team tournament, which players have suggested would be necessary due to the long layoff and the physical rigor of playoff hockey.

If the revised playoff format consists of the top 12 teams from each conference, then the Arizona Coyotes would qualify. At the time of the season pause, Arizona was 11th in the Western Conference with 74 points. In a normal 16-team playoff, Arizona was four points back of the second Wild Card spot in the west.

According to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika, commissioner Gary Bettman told a virtual sports business conference Monday morning that there’s not yet a fixed timetable to return and that a large testing capacity would be necessary to come back. He also said that because some players are currently not in North America, there could be potential snags in getting players back with their teams because of travel restrictions.

Monday marked 19 days since the NHL said it was “now looking ahead” to Phase 2, a step during which players will be able to return to training facilities in small groups. The league said in late April that Phase 2 would likely come in mid-to-late May.


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