NHL : Playoffs are go for 2020 – but why?

It seems the rumors of the NHL’s return to ice were founded in truth. Today, NHL Commissioner,Gary Bettman, announced the return of NHL hockey – for the playoffs. Perhaps the question then should be – but why?

After lengthy rumors and gossip – the return of the NHL season is now all but certain. In a video confrence announcement Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner Bettman smugly announced the sports return – and the bizarre new format surrounding it.

“It will enable the best playoffs in all of sports to honor our history and produce a champion worthy of claiming the most treasured trophy in all of sports,” said Bettman.

Traditionally, the NHL post-season is made up of sixteen teams. This years spectacle will include twenty-four – meaning that eight teams that hadn’t earned their respected spot in the playoffs will be taking part anyway. Furthermore, given that teams have not been able to practice during the global COVID-19 pandemic, how good a product these farcical matches will provide is questionable. Perhaps culling the season would have been the more sensible response.

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Instead, the commissioner is placing his leagues players and staff in unsafe environment. Set aside the very real threat of exposure to the coronavirus – regardless if personnel will be checked every day or not. These players are rusty. Having not played in two months. Asking them to rush back into uncertainty and at playoffs pace – is willful endangerment. And for what? A watered down product played on terrible ice surfaces.  July isn’t an opportune time for hockey in North America.

The four highest placed teams of each conference, as of March 12th, when the league shut down, will claim automatic berths to the first round of the playoffs. There will be play intra-conference, round-robin games against the other three teams to determine seeding. These games will be played under regular-season regulations. Including overtime and shootout rules. Any ties in the final standings of the round robin will be broken using regular season points percentage.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will then play in a best-of-five qualifying round series. The four winners proceeding to the first round of the playoffs. These games will use playoff overtime rules. It is assumed that these games will be played in two elected cities. Known as hub cities.

Certain details still need to be ironed out. Such as where these matches will take place – and when. Questions of travel restrictions and closed borders for players from outside of North America. Covid-19 testing and, what format later stages of the tournament will adopt.

One certainty is that this years playoffs will go in history books, as one heck of an odd-ball tournament.