Cary, NC — Canes fans everywhere miss the sound of the electrifying siren at PNC, the 60 minutes of lightning speed puck action and the post-win storm surge celebrations.
The good news is our beloved team will soon hit the ice again. The bad news is we don’t know exactly when, where and what the fan situation will be. Here’s what we do know from the NHL’s plan to resume announced on Tuesday, May 26.
24 Teams Will Battle it Out
The remainder of the 2020 regular season is canceled. The league instead is planning for a 24-team playoff format in which the teams who had the best records at the point of suspension are rewarded in the lineup, and the field is also widened a bit to give a few more teams the chance to take home the coveted Stanley Cup Trophy.
Instead of games taking place all over the US and Canada, the league will designate two hub cities, one for the western conference teams and one for the eastern conference. Under their current timeline, the 2020 champions would be named in early fall.
These two cities have yet to be announced, but it is not looking like Raleigh is being considered for the eastern.
By having these two individual locations host all games, it will allow for routine testing and monitoring while also keeping players as isolated as possible. Under the current plan, teams would be restricted to a total of 50 personnel each in their designated host city to limit the number of people who come into contact with one another.
When Will the Puck Drop?
Don’t get out the foam fingers and signed jerseys just yet. Under this new plan, training camps would resume no earlier than July 1, 2020.
The league is waiting to see how the pandemic progresses to finalize details, so there is no concrete date for the first puck drop, but instead, a loose framework that can be adjusted.
The schedule is laid out in a four-phase system:
- Phase 1 (Tuesday): Announcing the league’s intentions to end the regular season and convert to the 24 team playoff.
- Phase 2 (June): Return to play. Plan announced to teams and the public with host cities and final details.
- Phase 3 (July): A mini-training camp for teams and players to return to playing condition before starting the playoffs.
- Phase 4 (No date): Commencement of round robin, qualifying round and playoff play.
The top 4 teams in each conference by points percentage will be put into a pool and play a mini, Round Robin style tournament to determine the deeding for the playoffs. These teams will be:
In the East: Boston Bruins, Philadephia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals
In the West: Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Vegan Golden Knights
The remaining 16 teams in the tournament will face-off in a play-in series to decide who faces who in the first round of the tournament. These games are confirmed as they are based solely on their points percentages.
Preliminary Round Games
Penguins (5th) vs. Canadiens (12th)
Hurricanes (6th) vs. Rangers (11th)
Islanders (7th) vs. Panthers (10th)
Maple Leafs (8th) vs. Blue Jackets (9th)
Oilers (5th) vs. Blackhawks (12th)
Predators (6th) vs, Coyotes (11th)
Canucks (7th) vs. Wild (10th)
Flames (8th) vs. Jets (9th)
Not the Best Format for the Hurricanes
Prior to this new set-up, the Canes would have had a bye in the West. Now confined to the East, they will face-off against the New York Rangers, a team that pulled off a series sweep against them at home in the regular season.
Jordan Martinook, the Canes’ NHL Players’ Association spoke on the layout of the tourneys in a media conference call.
“You play so hard throughout the season to put yourself in position to make the playoffs,” said Martinook. “It just kind of limits our odds and makes us play an extra series. It doesn’t really benefit the teams that are in 5, 6, 7, 8, so it kind of hinders those teams and obviously gives a lot to 9, 10, 11 and 12.”
Story and photos by Ashley Kairis.
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