nhl 24 team playoff

NHL announces return to play and unveils matchups for 24 team playoffs

The NHL is hoping to return to play this summer for 2019-20 season, and today, commissioner Gary Bettman outlined the plan in detail.

The league's "return-to-play" committee has created a four-phase timeline that will see 24 teams from the U.S. and Canada compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup.

That means some teams including Buffalo, New Jersey, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Ottawa and Detroit don't get to continue to play meaning their season has officially ended.

Bettman said that Phase Two of the plan could begin as soon as next week, which will see qualifying clubs return to practice facilities for training, both on and off the ice.

In Phase Three, clubs will be permitted to begin training camps. Bettman did not provide an exact date for this, but said it's unlikely to happen before mid-July.

Phase Four will see the 24 teams report to two main hub cities, which will house the Western and Eastern conferences. The playoffs will take place this summer and into the early fall, subject to the "developing circumstances" and needs of the players.

These cities have yet to be determined, but Bettman revealed that the league is choosing from a list of 10 cities including Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton.

Each team will be allowed a maximum of 50 personnel. The league will provide secure arenas, hotels, and transportation for the players.

The first-round playoff matchups will use either a bracket or seeding format. Bettman added that the league wishes to be "sensitive to the players' preferences," who are reportedly pushing for a seeding format.

The top four teams in each conference will play two mini round-robin tournaments to determine seeding.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will be seeded based on regular season points percentage, and they will play best-of-five games to determine the clubs making it past the qualifying round.

Bettman says the first and second rounds could be either best-of-five or best-of-seven, but the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be best-of-seven.

The NHL Eastern Conference will include the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Phildelphia Flyers as the top seeds while the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricane, NY Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, NY Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens battle in the qualifying round.

The NHL Western Conference will include top seeds St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars while the Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Arizona Coyotes and the Chicago Black Hawks are in the qualifying round.

Bettman said that although the league is "anxious to get back on the ice," the timeline will be subject to the approval of healthcare professionals and government officials.

He stressed that the health of the players, coaches, and essential support staff continue to be the league's first priority.

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