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NHL Return

CONFIRMED, WE HAVE HOCKEY! Players Approve 24-Team NHL Return

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NHL playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby

It was heated, and there was significant disagreement with the proposal, which centered on a 24-team NHL playoffs format for the Stanley Cup. In the end, the NHLPA approved the plan crafted by the NHL return to play committee on Friday evening, and hockey fans around the world will get to watch one team hoist the 2020 Stanley Cup via television.

Near 6 p.m., a source with first-hand knowledge told Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now that the voting ended, and the players approved the format. Murphy also confirmed the voting was close.

Jimmy earned a few clicks for his work the last few weeks.

There is still a myriad of details to be worked out, and some are keeping a close eye on the NHL’s safety measures, but the players approved the proposal, and we are a go for hockey.

The NHLPA also made sure to express their concern over safety measures to the NHL as part of the deal.

Bob McKenzie of TSN first reported the proposal was expected to pass. He tweeted the news close to 5:30 p.m.

The vote was completed Friday evening, and it was not unanimous. The PA has not yet officially announced the tally, but word began to leak the voting was concluding and approval expected.

Additional details such as hub cities and timelines for the NHL return still need to be worked out.

There was significant worry from some players about leaving family and loved ones for several months to be quarantined for the NHL return. There was also chagrin over non-playoff teams such as Chicago and Montreal having an equal shot at the Stanley Cup as did teams which otherwise earned a playoff spot in the regular season.

The 24-team field will include large hockey fanbases and media markets, including New York, Montreal, and Chicago. It was unlikely any team, but the New York Islanders would have made the playoffs if not for the format expansion.

In the end, extraordinary circumstances produced an extraordinary result, the likes of which we may never see again.

The NHL didn’t even have 24 teams until 1993. Not since the Stanley Cup was an open tournament in 1914 has there been this many teams with a chance to win. And not since the 1918 Stanley Cup Final in which the Spanish Flu epidemic infected several players have we seen a virus wreak such havoc on professional sports, including the Stanley Cup.

We have hockey. Let the chaos ensue.

The NHL playoff tournament will give byes to the top four teams in each conference. The rest of the NHL playoffs will be a bracket tournament with five-game play-in series. The seeds will be based on winning percentage. While the play-in series occur, the top teams in each conference will play warm-up games. Sportsnet reported on Tuesday those games would count, and points would be awarded, which could affect Round One seedings, but that has not yet been publicly confirmed.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will begin their Cup quest with a play-in series against the Montreal Canadiens, who have the least points (71) of any team in the 24-team field. Montreal was 10 points out of the wild-card race when the NHL paused the season on March 12.

PHN broke down the coming Penguins vs. Montreal short series. 

Pittsburgh Hockey Now, with its sister sites, will have as much coverage of the unfolding events and the coming NHL playoffs as the league will allow. Join Dan Kingerski on 93-7 the Fan Friday night as a guest of Paul Zeise.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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