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NHLPA agree on 24-team playoff framework to resume season

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2018, file photo, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference at the Board of Governors annual meeting in Sea Island, Ga. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File)

The National Hockey League Players’ Association has collectively agreed on a return-to-play format that calls for a 24-team playoff.

The NHL presented the framework to the NHLPA, which voted on the measures starting on Thursday.

The NHLPA released a statement on Friday saying they have agreed to extend talks.

“The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play,” the union said in a statement.

This approval doesn’t yet seal the deal for the NHL season resuming. The league and players union still need to negotiate other details, including health and safety protocols, to bring teams back on the ice after the season paused on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the expectation is for an announcement to come from the league within a few days.

Under the plan, the top 12 teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs. Of those 12, the top four play each other for seeding while the remaining eight play each other in a standard seeding format, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported.

Therefore, the 11th-ranked Coyotes would play sixth-ranked Nashville in the first playoff series, which would be a best-of-five.

Commissioner Gary Bettman this week said the league was looking at eight or nine locations to serve as hub cities for the resumption of the season.

It’s unclear when the league and players will agree to begin the second phase of preparations for return, which would be the reopening of team practice facilities and voluntary workouts. The following step would then likely be a three-week training camp before games resume.

Coyotes defenseman Jordan Oesterle recently said a good amount of time to be on the ice to prepare for a season resuming is four to six weeks. GM John Chayka said in March that the ice at Gila River Arena had been removed, since the NHL’s “phase one” didn’t allow for players to use team facilities for training.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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