The National Hockey League will skip past the remainder of the regular season to a playoff format consisting of 24 teams rather than its normal 16 when and if games resume, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday.
Bettman said the league has not yet confirmed games will resume, saying the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association must still reach a deal on where to play and health and safety protocols, according to The Associated Press.
The NHLPA issued guidance for players returning to their facilities earlier in the week, including no more than six players on the ice at a time, no coaches for voluntary workouts and no physical contact.
The NHL will determine seeding with separate round-robin tournaments for the top for teams in each conference ranked by points percentage, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the east, and the St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche, the Vegas Golden Knights and the Dallas Stars in the West, according to the CBC.
The remaining 16 teams will be seeded by conference with a best-of-five series for both conferences. With the 189 unplayed regular-season games called off, the season would be over for the Buffalo Sabres, the New Jersey Devils, the Anaheim Ducks, the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks, the Ottawa Senators and the Detroit Red Wings.
While sites have not been determined for the games, the league is reportedly considering sites in Columbus, Ohio, Las Vegas, Toronto and Edmonton.
"It's not easy getting everybody on board with all the different countries, the players, the teams that were in the playoffs, teams that may not be in the playoffs and getting that all agreed upon with the union," Buffalo Sabres owner Kim Pegula told the AP. "For us to even finish the season and award [the Stanley Cup], I know a lot of work went into it. But I know how important it was for our players, our fans, our league to make sure that we conclude it."