NHL season COVID-19
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Much like other major professional sports in North America and around the world, the NHL season has been suspended since back in March due to the ongoing pandemic.

There’s been a lot of positive vibes when it comes to the season somehow returning this summer. That has included playing in a bubble city, much like the NBA.

According to this report from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the NHL and NHLPA are having ongoing conversations about resuming the season with a 24-team playoff format that includes 12 teams in each conference.

“As the “Return to Play” Committee continues to negotiate various NHL playoff scenarios, multiple sources indicate the NHL and NHLPA are working on a 24-team conference-based playoff setup,” the NHL insider noted. “Let’s be clear: nothing is set in stone. The teams and players must still approve it, but discussions on the proposal could happen as soon as Thursday.”

The details are interesting.

  • The top-four seeds in each conference would receive first-round byes, but would have to play in a three-game tournament to get some action in.
  • As of right now, Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia would have byes back east. Meanwhile, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas would have byes in the Western Conference.
  • From that point on, the rest of the playoffs would be bracketed. The fifth seed going up against the No. 12 seed and the like.
  • The games would obviously take place at a neutral site without fans in attendance. This is precisely what the NBA is considering, too.

As with other sports leagues attempting to start up again, there’s a lot of logistical concerns. Widespread testing, tracing and antibody testing are three aspects being looked at.

Needless to say, the pandemic situation in the United States and Canada will also play a role. But for now, it seems like the NHL has a solid plan in its attempt to return to action. Where that might be and when that might happen is anyone’s best guess.