Report: NHL Players' Association board voting on 24-team playoff format for coronavirus return

Yahoo Sports

After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL is looking to jump right back in with the postseason. 

The NHL Players’ Association’s executive board is voting on a 24-team playoff proposal as the official return to play format, the Associated Press reported on Thursday night.

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That vote is ongoing, but results are expected as soon as Friday night.

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The proposed plan, per the report, will have top four teams in each of the Eastern and Western Conferences play each other for seeding. Then, the remaining 16 teams in each conference will face off in a best-of-five series play-in round to determine the final 16 teams in the 24-team field. 

That proposal would mean that the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers are in automatically from the Eastern Conference, and the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Las Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars are in automatically from the Western Conference. 

If the NHLPA’s executive board approves the plan, it would still need to be approved by the league’s board of governors. Other details, like when and where the playoffs would take place and what security and coronavirus safety protocols would be put in place, will still need to be determined before the plan can actually move forward. 

The border between the United States and Canada is currently closed to nonessential travel and will remain that way until at least June 21, too — something that will undoubtedly make any plan to finish out the season much more difficult.

According to ESPN, the NHL will likely utilize two “hub” cities to hold the playoffs, and fans will not be allowed. Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday that he had narrowed the list of potential cities to less than 10. Among others, the NHL was looking at Las Vegas, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver.

The league suspended its season indefinitely on March 12 due to the coronavirus, one day after the NBA did so. It had just more than three weeks and 189 total games left on the regular season schedule.

There were more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Thursday night, according to The New York Times, and nearly 95,000 deaths attributed to it. Canada had more than 81,000 confirmed cases and more than 6,000 deaths.

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