Pending a vote by the NHLPA Friday it looks like the NHL return to play plan is now more or less confirmed, along with an extension to the CBA.
Initially, it looked like Las Vegas was a front runner but the spike in COVID cases in the southern US appeared to turn the tide in favor of the Canadian cities. The Eastern Conference hub will be Toronto and the Western Conference, including the Stars, will be based in Edmonton. The Stanley Cup Final itself will be held in Edmonton.
The plan is for each city to host 3 games a day, at 12pm, 4pm, and 8pm, with the two hour time difference between Edmonton and Toronto which means that Stars fans could see hockey games continuously from 11am CT through to close to midnight.
While the wisdom of returning to play under any circumstances in a pandemic can be questioned it’s hard not to be excited about the prospect of playoff hockey.
I can’t deny that the idea of 13 hours a day of hockey, all while stuck at home in the midst of a pandemic and the heat of the Texas summer is exciting.
Training camps are expected to formally open Monday, with the playoffs formally commencing with the play-in round on 30th July and the first round of the playoffs proper starting 10 days later.
The final will end no later than 2nd October with the draft happening a few days later, followed by a compressed free agency period, with the 2020-2021 season beginning in December.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) July 6, 2020
The rumored hotel allocations for each group of teams seem designed to maximize shenanigans with the Penguins, Flyers, and Capitals all in the same hotel in Toronto and the Stars sharing hotel space with the Blues and the Avalanche in Edmonton. It appears, however, that each team will be largely confined to a floor of the hotel with little to no interaction between them off the rink and punitive disciplinary action for anyone caught breaking the “bubble”.
It’s hard not to feel for the players, while most seem to actively enjoy spending time with their team-mates, the prospect of spending anything up to 2 months holed up with them, missing family and friends during what is a difficult time for anyone is probably not what any of them signed up for.
It’s hard to know what the world will look like come December but in the meantime, the prospect of summer hockey is an exciting one.
Hopefully, by the time the next season rolls around the world will look more like normal with the added bonus of an extension to the CBA meaning no lockout on the horizon.
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