Edmonton among 10 cities considered to host NHL return; Oilers will play Blackhawks in qualifying round
EDMONTON -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Edmonton is among 10 cities being considered to host the playoffs as he revealed more details about the league's plan to return to play this summer.
COVID-19 forced the NHL to suspend its regular season on March 12. On Tuesday, Bettman declared the 2019-20 regular season complete, and each conference's top 12 teams at the time the season was paused will enter a 24-team playoff in two host cities.
The NHL is studying proposals from Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh.
"The final determination will depend on COVID-19 conditions, testing available and government regulation," the commissioner said.
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The NHL is currently in Phase 1 of its return to play, where the league told teams and players to self-isolate as much as possible. On Monday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly released details on Phase 2, which will involve players returning to team facilities for voluntary small workouts on and off the ice in early June.
Phase 3, not expected to begin before July, would see teams enter a training camp period before the season resumes in the two host cities in Phase 4 sometime in the summer.
"At this time we're not fixing dates because the scheduled of our return to play will be determined both by developing circumstances and the needs of our players," Bettman said Tuesday.
RETURN TO PLAY
The Top 4 teams in each conference, based on points percentage when play shut down, will automatically get into the playoffs, but before that, they will play each other three times in a Round Robin Round to determine seeding.
The remaining eight teams will play best-of-five series to advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Edmonton Oilers, fifth in points percentage in the Western Conference, will face the 12th place Chicago Blackhawks in the Qualifying Round in Hub City 2.
The NHL has not decided if the first and second rounds will be five or seven games series, and whether matchups will be determined through seeding or brackets.
The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals will be best-of-seven, Bettman said.
"Fans [are] telling us in overwhelming numbers that they want us to complete the season, if at all possible," Bettman said. "Our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to rightful conclusion.
"This plan will produce a worthy Stanley Cup champion who will have run the postseason gauntlet that I unique to the NHL."
The seven teams left out of the 24-team postseason, and the eight teams that lose in the Qualifying Round, will enter the NHL Draft Lottery.
DRAISAITL WINS ART ROSS TROPHY
With the regular season officially over, Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl is the 2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner.
Draisaitl led the NHL with 110 points when the season stopped on March 12. Teammate Connor McDavid finished second with 97 points.