UPDATED, 5:15 PM: While the NHL and its players continue to negotiate a deal to resume the paused 2019-20 season, the league has unveiled plans to transition to Phase 2 of its plan to resume.
Starting on Monday, its 31 teams will be allowed to reopen training facilities in their home city to allow players to participate in on- and off-ice training activities on a voluntary basis. They will be limited to small groups of six at the most,, plus a limited number of staff.
The measures are intended to provide players with a safe and controlled environment in which to resume their conditioning, the league said, noting that Phase 2 is not a substitute for training camp. Read details of the league’s reopening plans below.
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PREVIOUSLY, May 26: Sharpen the skates and ice down those pucks: The NHL is coming back.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said today that 24 of the league’s 31 teams will resume play — the top 12 from each conference based on points percentage when the regular season was halted on March 12 amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Phase 2 of the reopening plan — a return to club facilities for training in small groups — will begin in early June, but formal training camps won’t begin before July 1. Phase 4 will be in-conference round-robin games, playoff qualifying rounds and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Those dates are to be determined, but Bettman said.
But for record-keeping, end-of-season awards and such, the 2019-20 regular season is over, he said. The remaining seven teams will enter the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.
Watch the announcement video above, and read details of the Return to Play Plan below.
The Western and Eastern conference each will be assigned a “host city” with “secure hotels, arena, practice facility and in-market transportation.” Among the host cities being considered are Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Columbus, OH.
“We remain focused on the safety of our players, coaches, support staff and arena personnel,” Bettman said. “We will not set dates, choose sites or begin play until we know it is appropriate and prudent are approved to do so.”
He added: “Obviously, we anticipate playing over the summer and 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 the needs of our players.”
The top four teams based on the final regular-season standings will play for first-round seeding. The remaining eight teams in each conference will play best-of-five series to advance to Round 1 of the playoffs. Then the league will stage a conference-based Stanley Cup Playoffs in each hub city.
Other playoff details such as number of games for each of the first two rounds and seedings vs. bracket are to be determined, but the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final will be a best-of-seven format.
“We believe we can get the qualifying and first two rounds of the playoffs completed in a little over a month,” Bettman said.
The National Hockey League iced its 2019-20 regular season on March 12, the same day as the NBA’s shutdown. Since then, its Return to Play Committee — made up of league officials and the NHL Players’ Association — has met to discuss the next steps toward resuming the season.
“Obviously, these are extraordinary and unprecedented times,” the commissioner said. “Any plan for the resumption of play by definition cannot be perfect. … But we believe we have constructed an overall plan that includes all teams that, as a practical matter, might have had a chance of qualifying for the playoffs when the season was paused.
“And this plan,” he added, “will produce a worthy Stanley Cup champion who will have run the postseason gauntlet that is unique to the NHL. While we are hopeful, it is our goal that we will be able to resume play and award the Stanley Cup, we intend to do so in a time frame that will enable us to get back to a full calendar for the 2020-21 season.”
On Sunday, the NHL issued a 22-page memo to its players, teams, executives, and medical and training staff titled “Phased Return to Sport Protocol” (read it here). It outlined the framework for the league’s plan “that will govern players and clubs in ‘Phase 2,’ the transition period following ‘self-quarantine,’ as players are permitted to return to NHL club training facilities for voluntary small-group individualized training activities (on-ice and off-ice).”
The memo’s intro also stated:
Based on the current information available, we are now targeting a date in early June for a transition to Phase 2. However, it has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last. We are continuing to monitor developments in each of the Club’s markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate, following discussion with all relevant parties. To better inform our decision-making, after reviewing the attached Protocol, we would like to hear from Clubs with respect to your ability to implement the required procedures and the estimated timing for your Club to be in a position to open up your training facility.
As we have stated repeatedly, the health of the Players and Club personnel is our top priority, and that will dictate how Phase 2, and any progression thereafter, may evolve. We again emphasize that Player participation in Phase 2 is strictly voluntary. In addition, Clubs are not permitted to require Players to return to the Club’s home city so they can complete a quarantine requirement in time to participate in Phase 2.
The league said on April 29 that it “might return to small group activities” in two to four weeks, “provided that conditions continue to trend favorably.” And today’s news come two days after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted all restrictions on pro sports teams’ activities, meaning they can begin their training camps en route to reopening.
While we wait for that first post-shutdown puck drop, here are the details of the NHL’s plan to resume play:
* The 2019-20 regular season is declared concluded through games of March 11. The 189 games originally scheduled from March 12 – April 4 will not be played.
* 24 teams will resume play: the top 12 in each Conference on the basis of points percentage at the pause (through games of March 11).
* Since the League’s pause on March 12, the League has been in Phase 1 with teams having been instructed to self-isolate as much as possible.
Phase 2 – Early June
* In early June, it is expected that teams will be permitted to return to home facilities for small group, voluntary, and on- and off-ice training.
Phase 3 – Not Earlier than First Half of July
* Not earlier than first half of July, formal training camps will begin after guidance from medical and civil authorities.
Phase 4 – Timing TBD
* 24 teams in 2 “hub” cities will compete in Seeding Round Robins, a Qualifying Round and Conference-based Stanley Cup Playoffs.
* The 2 “hub” cities will be selected from among the following:
– Chicago, IL
– Columbus, OH
– Dallas, TX
– Edmonton, AB
– Las Vegas, NV
– Los Angeles, CA
– Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
– Pittsburgh, PA
– Toronto, ON
– Vancouver, BC
* Each Conference is assigned a “hub” city with secure hotels, arena, practice facilities and in-market transportation.
* Teams will be limited to 50 personnel in the “hub” city with only a small number of support staff permitted to enter the event areas.
* Timing and sites will be determined at a future date and will be dependent on COVID-19 conditions, testing ability and government regulations.
* In each Conference, teams seeded by points percentage.
Round Robin: The top 4 teams play for First Round seeding (regular-season overtime rules in effect)
Qualifying Round: The remaining 8 teams play best-of-5 series to advance to the First Round (playoff overtime rules in effect)
First Round and Second Round: Format (seeding vs. bracket) and series lengths to be determined
Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final: Best-of-7 series
* The winners from the Qualifying Round play the top 4 seeds in the First Round. Individual First Round series matchups remain to be determined.
Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs
Columbus Blue Jackets
New York Rangers
City 1 – Round Robin for Seeding in First Round
1. Boston Bruins
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Washington Capitals
4. Philadelphia Flyers
City 1 – Best-of-5 Qualifying Round
#5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #12 Montreal Canadiens
#6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #11 New York Rangers
#7 New York Islanders vs. #10 Florida Panthers
#8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #9 Columbus Blue Jackets
City 2 – Round Robin for Seeding in First Round
1. St. Louis Blues
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Vegas Golden Knights
4. Dallas Stars
City 2 – Best-of-5 Qualifying Round
#5 Edmonton Oilers vs. #12 Chicago Blackhawks
#6 Nashville Predators vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes
#7 Vancouver Canucks vs. #10 Minnesota Wild
#8 Calgary Flames vs. #9 Winnipeg Jets
2020 NHL Draft Lottery
The NHL Draft Lottery will determine the order for the first 15 selections of the 2020 NHL Draft. The picks will be awarded to the seven teams that do not resume play and the eight teams that do not advance from the Qualifying Round (or the teams that acquired their first-round picks).
* Phase 1 of the Draft Lottery will be conducted prior to the Qualifying Round on Friday, June 26.
* Three draws: First Draw (first overall pick), Second Draw (second overall pick) and Third Draw (third overall pick).
* Clubs entered: The seven teams that do not return to play, ranked in inverse order of their points percentage at the time of the regular-season pause, and eight “place-holders” to represent the to-be-determined Qualifying Round teams that will not advance, thus maintaining previously-established odds.
Here are the seven teams in the lottery and their chances of drawing the No. 1 overall selection:
1. Detroit Red Wings, 18.5%
2. Ottawa Senators, 13.5%
3. *Ottawa Senators, 11.5%
4. Los Angeles Kings, 9.5%
5. Anaheim Ducks, 8.5%
6. **New Jersey Devils, 7.5%
7. **Buffalo Sabres, 6.5%
8. Team A, 6%
9. Team B, 5%
10. Team C, 3.5%
11. Team D, 3%
12. Team E, 2.5%
13. Team F, 2.%
14. Team G, 1.5%
15. Team H, 1%
* Acquired in a trade with San Jose Sharks (.450 points percentage)
** Buffalo Sabres ranked higher than New Jersey Devils on the basis of higher regulation/OT win percentage (Buffalo, .406 ROW%; New Jersey, .348 ROW%)
* If the winning team of the First Draw is from the #1-7 group, that team wins the right to the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
* If the winning team of the First Draw is from the #8-15 group, the right to the first overall pick will be determined in Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery.
* After the First Draw, the winning team (from either the #1-7 group or the #8-15 group) will no longer be eligible for the Second or Third Draws. All number combinations originally assigned to this team will become “Re-Draw Combinations” for the Second and Third Draws. The remaining teams’ odds will increase on a proportionate basis for the Second Draw based on which team wins the First Draw.
* If the winning team of the Second Draw is from among the #1-7 group, that team wins the right to the second overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
* If the winning team of the Second Draw is from the #8-15 group, the right to the second overall pick will be determined in Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery.
* After the Second Draw, the winning team (from either the #1-7 group or the #8-15 group) will no longer be eligible for the Third Draw. All number combinations originally assigned to this team will become “Re-Draw Combinations” for the Third Draw. The remaining teams’ odds will increase on a proportionate basis for the Third Draw based on which team wins the Second Draw.
* If the winning team of the Third Draw is from among the #1-7 group above, that team wins the right to the third overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
* If the winning team of the Third Draw is from the #8-15 group, the right to the third overall pick will be determined in Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery.
If All Three Draws Are Won by Teams in #1-7 Group . . .
* The winning teams receive the respective top three selections in the 2020 NHL Draft. The remaining four teams in the #1-7 group not selected in the three draws are assigned NHL Draft positions 4 through 7 in inverse order of their points percentage at the time of the regular-season pause. The next eight Draft positions (8 through 15) will be assigned to the eight teams that do not advance from the Qualifying Round, in inverse order of their points percentage at the time of the regular-season pause. In these circumstances, Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery would not be necessary.
If Any of the Three Draws Are Won by Teams in the #8-15 Group
* The Draws for the corresponding selections will be conducted during Phase 2 among only the eight Qualifying Round teams that failed to advance.
* Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery, if necessary, will be conducted between the Qualifying Round and First Round.
* Phase 2 participants: the eight teams that do not advance from the Qualifying Round (or the teams that acquired their first-round picks).
* Following each Phase 2 draw, the winning team will be assigned the corresponding Top 3 selection and, if another Phase 2 draw is necessary, that team’s numbered lottery ball will be removed.
* When all Phase 1 and Phase 2 draws are completed and the Top 3 selections in the 2020 NHL Draft assigned, the remaining selections in the Top 15 will be assigned to the 12 teams that did not win a draw in inverse order of their points percentages at the time of the season’s pause.
* In each Phase 2 draw, all participants will have the same odds.