The NHL and the players’ association did not come to an agreement Friday night on a proposed playoff format and a restart to the season.
The players’ union released a statement Friday night saying it has authorized further negotiations, however.
There appears to be significant work to be done.
Pierre LeBrun of TSN in Canada reported that the format was agreed upon, but other issues remain unresolved.
To recap: the NHLPA has agreed to the format itself even though there are other important issues and elements to negotiate. The NHL now will go through its own process and I would expect some form of announcement within the next few days.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 23, 2020
The official statement from the NHLPA headquarters in Toronto:
“The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”
The NHLPA executive committee conference call Thursday night got “a little heated at times,” TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted earlier Friday. McKenzie added that the vote was expected to have 18 of the 31 needed for approval.
The setup was proposed by the NHL’s return-to-play committee, which includes top league and union executives and several prominent players. The top four teams in each conference would receive byes and warm up with a round-robin tournament, and the lower eight teams per conference have a play-in round for the final four spots. The play-in could be a round-robin, best-of-three, best-of-five or best-of-seven format.
The 16 remaining teams would conduct the playoffs, which would be traditional, four-round, best-of-seven series for the Stanley Cup. By the start of the Round of 16, it is hoped the players, who had been off 72 days as of Friday, would have their pistons firing properly.
This plan would mean the scuttling of the final 189 games on the regular-season schedule.
Possibilities for host cities include Las Vegas, Columbus and Minneapolis/St. Paul in the United States, and Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto in Canada. Commissioner Gary Bettman said this week the league was looking at eight or nine cities to serve as hubs.
Bruins team president Cam Neely told the Globe this week that TD Garden was submitted for consideration. But Boston, given its status as a COVID-19 hot spot, would be an unlikely choice.
The first pucks could be dropped in early July. The 2020 Stanley Cup could be awarded in early September.
The expanded playoff format would give byes to Boston, which earned a league-high 100 points (44-14-12) when the NHL paused the season March 12, and Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the East. The top four in the West are St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas.
The play-in teams in the East would be Pittsburgh, Carolina, the Islanders and Rangers, Toronto, Columbus, Florida and Montreal. The West: Edmonton, Nashville, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Arizona and Chicago.
The seven teams to miss the cut, based on points percentage, would be Buffalo, New Jersey, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Ottawa and Detroit.
If the Bruins are permitted to practice at their Brighton facility — which remains closed under city restrictions — they would skate daily in multiple small groups, likely limited to six players and on-ice coaching staff, the Globe reported on Thursday. Players, most of whom have been off skates 72 days as of Friday, would need several weeks of preparation for a restart. Across the league, full training camps would begin in mid-June.
On Tuesday, Canada and the United States agreed to keep their borders closed for nonessential crossings until June 21, which could impede the flow of players returning to their NHL cities to train. However, governmental leaders in both countries have expressed great interest in pro sports restarting, so it’s likely the ban could be relaxed.