By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The NHL and NHLPA took their first steps towards a return to the ice this summer on Friday night, as the NHLPA voted to move ahead with a 24-team playoff format for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup," the NHLPA said in a statement released shortly after their vote. "Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play."
Given the nature of professional athletes and how the league had 85 percent of their season finished at the time of the pause, this is not a shocking result. Almost every NHL player, with the exception of a vocal few such as the Predators' Matt Duchene, has expressed their desire to return to the ice and crown a champion by any means necessary. And while the belief has almost always been that the NHLPA would vote to continue, multiple reports noted that the call on Thursday night was at times contentious and even heated, as not everybody has been on board with the NHL's plans to resume, the 24-team format, and the financial particulars of a potential return.
But with a rep from all 31 teams on the vote, the NHLPA got the 18 yes votes needed to move ahead with this format.
And as their statement noted, additional details and key elements will need to be hammered out before the league drops the puck. Other issues include hub city travel plans for families, what happens if and when a player tests positive for the coronavirus, and a real timeline. The NHL has reportedly told teams to prepare for games in July, and are reportedly willing to delay the start of the 2020-21 season to December, but at a certain point, the players are going to want to know how they need to prepare.
But in the now, this is a definite positive for both sides.
Who knew that a pandemic was all it'd take for the NHL and NHLPA, the undeniable top rivals in the world of professional sport CBAs, to find some sort of labor peace?