It’s been an amazing weekend in the NHL, and for two countries. North America will get the NHL hockey and the 2020 Stanley Cup presentation. The dates and locations are still to be determined. Still, the NHLPA voted to accept the 24-team playoff proposal on Friday night in which the Pittsburgh Penguins will face the Montreal Canadiens, and logistics planning is well underway.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now became part of the conversation as we broke two stories on Friday night, including the confirmation of an affirmative vote. Near 5:30 p.m., one of the NHLPA reps confirmed to us that it passed. Unless something changes or logistics become untenable, we will have hockey this summer. The second story was retracted and made us part of the national story, but we’ll get to that.
The National Hockey Now Family spoke with sources who were part of the vote on Friday night. The final tally was overwhelming, but that wasn’t the sentiment or tone of the conversations leading up to the vote. Players thought it would be close.
However, in wonderful, classic hockey fashion, teams which were on the fence or in the negative column understood there was positive support, and the players rallied around the final vote. Dissent or concern faded, and players came together for an overwhelming vote.
“We have a union for everyone to express our views. Whatever the format is, some agree, some don’t,” Penguins NHLPA rep Kris Letang told Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. “As a union, we want to make the best decisions over time, the greater good for everyone.”
The greater good is a powerful phrase.
“At the end of the day, nobody gets exactly what they want, but we all want what is best for hockey and to continue to grow the game.”
Friday night, Pittsburgh Hockey Now retracted our report the Penguins and Letang voted “No” on the proposal. Our original team source was adamant. In fact, he spoke with the National Hockey Now family three times. Our source was mistaken. We got it wrong.
I personally and publicly apologize to you, and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the error. I’ll make in-person apologies when that’s possible. All we can do is correct the record and move on to the next story.
Silver Linings and Excitement
A silver lining to our report on was the number of other sources who contacted us Friday night and on Saturday.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now received an avalanche of positive sentiments regarding the upcoming playoffs. The players are ready to go. They, too, have quarantined for 10 or 11 weeks and want desperately to chase the Stanley Cup.
“Drop the puck,” was the lead-in to one chat.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now and multiple national reports leading up to the vote cited Montreal goalie Carey Price as a human fear factor in a short series. Sportsnet, TSN, and even the NY Post had stories.
“Fear of Carey Price Complicates Return,” read the NY Post headline. It was out there.
As part of the wave of fresh conversations, let us put that to rest, too. NO, the Pittsburgh Penguins players do not fear Price. Not even a little bit.
Sure, they respect him as a great goalie, a six-time All-Star, a Vezina Trophy winner, and a Hart Trophy winner. However, the Penguins players see their team advantages over the Montreal Canadiens, who were 10 points out of a playoff spot in March. From every conversation, the Penguins excitement and optimism were palpable.
One source made sure to slay the dragon that was “fear” of Carey Price.
The Penguins are loaded, and they’re amped. I know you can’t wait. Nor can I.
Hurdles Yet to Come
Now, the hard work begins. The NHL must confirm venues for hub cities, logistics for players, and, most importantly, testing. Testing emerged as a central concern among the NHLPA, and that concern has been communicated to the NHL.
Adequate and consistent testing will be a part of the NHL return to play; this won’t be like Nascar, which simply made participants sign a waiver. Of course, Nascar competitors have 3300 pounds of steel between each other, too.
As part of the hub cities, the NHL must procure a testing facility that does not interfere with national testing for sick or potentially sick citizens. The NBA has done it, so this doesn’t figure to be an impossible task, but it is a vital one.
There are still more details to be worked out about the tournament, too. Will it be seven-game series after the play-in series? That is assumed but not necessarily on paper. Time constraints could force changes, too.
But those are details. The big picture is the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to play hockey this summer.
Drop the puck.