'It's exciting': McDavid, Nurse discuss return to play, format and testing
EDMONTON -- After more than two months of being at home and spending several hours on Zoom, Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse are looking forward to getting back to what they do best.
"I'd never been on a Zoom call until this whole thing happened, but I'm definitely a bit of a Zoom expert now," said McDavid, on Zoom, Thursday.
The Edmonton Oilers captain was part of the NHL's Return to Play committee, which on Tuesday revealed how it plans to finish the season later this summer.
"It was definitely exciting to be a part of the process," McDavid said. "There was lots of back and forth, I can't say that everyone agreed on everything, but that was the point of the committee, to debate stuff and take it to a large sample size, and I feel like we've done our job and putting together a format."
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That format is centred on a 24-team playoff, with the Top 12 teams in each conference assigned to two hub cities to be decided later.
The four best teams in each conference, based on points percentage when the league shut down on March 12 as a result of the coronavirus, will play each other three times to determine seeding, while the remaining eight teams will play a best-of-five series to get into the playoffs.
"Maybe it's not the most fair way, but I think the integrity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is still going to be intact," McDavid said. "Let's say a team like Montreal beats Pittsburgh and does goes on to win the Stanley Cup, I think they're a very deserving team is they win five rounds and go through some really good teams. … There's never going to be a perfect scenario, there's never going to be a perfect format."
The fifth place Oilers will face the 12th place Chicago Blackhawks.
"We're not in the Top 4 and Dallas probably deserves to be there," McDavid said. "We'll do what we have to do and play this play-in and get the job done and hopefully move on to an exciting playoffs."
Regardless of format and opponent, McDavid and Nurse are excited the league is on track to play hockey again.
However, the NHL is still in the first phase of its Return to Play plan, in which players are encouraged to self-isolate as much as possible. In Phase 2, team facilities would open in early June for selective small workouts, and Phase 3 would be the start of training camp sometime in July.
The league has yet to select the two hub cities as it communicates with local and federal governments and health officials on quarantine guidelines and testing availability.
"There are a lot of hurdles that we have to overcome to get it going, but it's exciting that we're even having this discussion right now, and as a hockey player I just want to get back to playing," Nurse said.
Both players agreed frequent testing is important in order to resume play safely.
"If we're getting tested every day, it begins to limit the potential of getting the virus, so if that what it takes … then that's the way you have to go," Nurse said.
"That's a huge part of it, the safety of our players and everyone involved is paramount and that's the main issue that's gotta get solved right now, and I think that's what needs to get answered before anything happens," McDavid added.
McDavid added not having fans in the stands "sucks," but wants to play again regardless, while Nurse says the Oilers will be ready and motivated no matter what.
"There shouldn't be a whole lot you need to get you going because you're still playing for the Stanley Cup," the defenceman said. "Yeah, there's no fans there. Yeah, you might be in a hub city, but there's an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. That should be enough motivation to get anyone going … the Stanley Cup should be all the fire you really need."