Coronavirus: NHLPA executive board approves NHL's proposed return to play format

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The executive board of the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) has approved further negotiations with the NHL on a proposed 24-team playoff tournament amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2019-20 NHL campaign was suspended on March 12 and it remains to be seen when, and if, the season will restart due to the COVID-19 crisis.

However, in a proposal to help restart the season, the top four teams in each conference – based on points percentage – would receive a first-round bye but would play a three-game round-robin tournament to avoid a detrimental layoff. 

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The teams seeded five through 12 would participate in a play-in tournament featuring a best-of-five format to determine who advances to face the top four seeds. 

"The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players' Association has authorised further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup," a statement from the NHLPA said.

"Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching an agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play."

While this approval provides parameters for the potential return of hockey, there are many critical elements that still need to be settled, including testing protocols, visas and where the games will take place. 

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