Somehow, The NHL is Coming Back

By on July 27, 2020
TRAVIS FAILEY PHOTO

The NHL has somehow pulled off the impossible. There were numerous moments this summer when I thought to myself that there is no way the NHL could crown a Stanley Cup Champion this year. There were way too many logistical issues and the NHL would not be able to figure it out. After a more than four-month hiatus, the NHL is officially back. As the Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to start on August 1st, a large amount of credit must be given to owners, the league, and the NHL Players Association. Both the NHL and the NHLPA worked extremely hard to find a way to carry out a postseason while looking out for the safety of the players. Not only were the league and NHLPA able to agree on a Return to Play deal for this year, they agreed to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that expires in September of 2026. This should be a relief for hockey fans knowing how past CBA negotiations have gone.

(photo Kim Klement / USA Today Sports

Format

            The only way for this to be possible was by utilizing “hub” cities. The NHL is sending 12 Eastern Conference teams to Toronto and 12 Western Conference teams to Edmonton. Both conference final matches and the Stanley Cup Final will take place in Edmonton. The “hub” cities are basically small villages set up to allow the players and staff to not have any interaction with outsiders. There will be plenty of restaurants, fitness centers, and other amenities for the players to pass time. Essentially, the players will be cut off from the outside world and be forced to stay in their bubble. This is a huge commitment for the players since they will have to go a long duration without seeing their family. Families will not be allowed to join the players in the bubble until the conference finals. With the conference finals starting in the middle of September, players on teams who make deep runs have to go over a month and a half without seeing their family.

            This will not be the standard playoff format hockey fans are used to. Instead of the traditional 8 teams on each side of the bracket, it is now a 12-team bracket. The teams that were 5th-12th in their respective conferences when the season was suspended, will play a best of five play in series in the qualifying round to join the top four seeds in each conference. The top four teams in each conference will play a round robin tournament to determine the seeding for the next round. After this, traditional NHL Playoff format will return to see who will hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in Edmonton.

TRAVIS FAILEY PHOTO

What to Expect

            This will certainly be a unique experience. Instead of teams limping into the playoffs with a plethora of injuries, this will be the first time most teams are completely healthy heading into the postseason. With teams rested and healthy, this should result in teams playing at a high level which will lead to extremely fast paced games. Each team will play at least one exhibition game to help shake some rust off and get prepared for the main event. The schedule is a dream for any sports fan. There will be 10 plus hours of consecutive hockey games starting each day around noon on the East Coast. All games will be televised on the NBC family of networks, so fans do not need to worry about missing out on any of the action. With me being a huge hockey fan, I can compare this to young kid getting ready for Christmas morning. Even though the MLB and NBA will be back by then, the NHL will be the only league playing truly meaningful games. 

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (TRAVIS FAILEY PHOTO)

Story to Watch

            No matter who you root for, the Oskar Lindblom story is amazing. After being diagnosed with cancer in December, he missed the Flyers last 39 games. In the beginning of July, it was announced that he was cancer free. It was just announced earlier this past week that he made the Flyers roster of 31 players eligible to participate in this year’s postseason. Not only did he make their playoff roster, he just signed a three year, nine-million-dollar contract. This has been an amazing story all year and how special would it be if he could get his name on the Stanley Cup this year.

Saturday, August 1

MATCHUPTIMENAT TV
New YorkEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 1, Series starts 8/1 @ Carolina12:00 PMNBCSN
ChicagoWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 1, Series starts 8/1 @ Edmonton3:00 PMNBC
FloridaEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 1, Series starts 8/1 @ New York4:00 PMNBCSN
MontrealEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 1, Series starts 8/1 @ Pittsburgh8:00 PMNBC
WinnipegWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 1, Series starts 8/1 @ Calgary10:30 PMNBCSN

Sunday, August 2

MATCHUPTIMENAT TV
ArizonaWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 1, Series starts 8/2 @ Nashville2:00 PMUSA
PhiladelphiaEAST QUALIFYING ROUND ROBIN, Series starts 8/2 @ Boston3:00 PMNBC
St. LouisWEST QUALIFYING ROUND ROBIN, Series starts 8/2 @ Colorado6:30 PMNBCSN
ColumbusEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 1, Series starts 8/2 @ Toronto8:00 PMNBCSN
MinnesotaWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 1, Series starts 8/2 @ Vancouver10:30 PMNBCSN

Monday, August 3

MATCHUPTIMENAT TV
New YorkEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 2, Series starts 8/1 @ Carolina12:00 PMNBCSN
WinnipegWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 2, Series starts 8/1 @ Calgary2:30 PMNBCSN
WashingtonEAST QUALIFYING ROUND ROBIN, Series starts 8/3 @ Tampa Bay4:00 PMNBCSN
DallasWEST QUALIFYING ROUND ROBIN, Series starts 8/3 @ Vegas6:30 PMNBCSN
MontrealEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 2, Series starts 8/1 @ Pittsburgh8:00 PMNBCSN
ChicagoWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 2, Series starts 8/1 @ Edmonton10:30 PMNBCSN

Tuesday, August 4

MATCHUPTIMENAT TV
FloridaEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 2, Series starts 8/1 @ New York12:00 PMNBCSN
ArizonaWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 2, Series starts 8/2 @ Nashville2:30 PMNBCSN
ColumbusEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 2, Series starts 8/2 @ Toronto4:00 PMNBCSN
CalgaryWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 3, Series starts 8/1 @ Winnipeg6:30 PMNBCSN
CarolinaEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 3, Series starts 8/1 @ New York8:00 PMNBCSN
MinnesotaWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 2, Series starts 8/2 @ Vancouver10:30 PMUSA

Wednesday, August 5

MATCHUPTIMENAT TV
New YorkEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 3, Series starts 8/1 @ Florida12:00 PMNBCSN
NashvilleWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 3, Series starts 8/2 @ Arizona2:30 PMNBCSN
Tampa BayEAST QUALIFYING ROUND ROBIN, Series starts 8/5 @ Boston4:00 PMNBCSN
ColoradoWEST QUALIFYING ROUND ROBIN, Series starts 8/5 @ Dallas6:30 PMNBCSN
PittsburghEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 3, Series starts 8/1 @ Montreal8:00 PMNBCSN
EdmontonWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 3, Series starts 8/1 @ Chicago10:30 PMNBCSN

Thursday, August 6

MATCHUPTIMENAT TV
WashingtonEAST QUALIFYING ROUND ROBIN, Series starts 8/6 @ PhiladelphiaTBD
TorontoEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 3, Series starts 8/2 @ ColumbusTBD
CarolinaEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 4 IF NECESSARY, Series starts 8/1 @ New YorkTBD
VegasWEST QUALIFYING ROUND ROBIN, Series starts 8/6 @ St. LouisTBD
VancouverWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 3, Series starts 8/2 @ MinnesotaTBD
CalgaryWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 4 IF NECESSARY, Series starts 8/1 @ WinnipegTBD

Friday, August 7

MATCHUPTIMENAT TV
TorontoEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 4 IF NECESSARY, Series starts 8/2 @ ColumbusTBD
New YorkEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 4 IF NECESSARY, Series starts 8/1 @ FloridaTBD
PittsburghEAST QUALIFYING – GAME 4 IF NECESSARY, Series starts 8/1 @ MontrealTBD
NashvilleWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 4 IF NECESSARY, Series starts 8/2 @ ArizonaTBD
EdmontonWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 4 IF NECESSARY, Series starts 8/1 @ ChicagoTBD
VancouverWEST QUALIFYING – GAME 4 IF NECESSARY, Series starts 8/2 @ MinnesotaTBD
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