98.5 The Sports Hub staff report
After an NHLPA vote that saw the players overwhelmingly vote in favor of a return to game action this summer (502-135, or 78.8 percent), the National Hockey League is officially coming back to action to crown a 2020 Stanley Cup champion.
“Today, the NHL and the NHLPA announced a significant agreement that addresses the uncertainty everyone is dealing with, the framework for the completion of the 2019-20 season and the foundation for the continued long-term growth of our league,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “While we have all worked very hard to try to address the risks of COVID-19, we know that health and safety are and will continue to be our priorities. We know that all of our fans are excited about our return to the ice next month and that has been our goal since we paused our season on Mar. 12.”
The true return will begin with a move into Phase 3 training camps next week, and with players currently scheduled to travel to hub city locations on July 26. Toronto will be the hub city (or ‘Phase 4 Secure Zone’ as the league prefers) for the 12 Eastern Conference teams while Edmonton will house the 12 teams from the Western Conference. And after three days of exhibition games, the league will begin their playoff qualifiers in both cities on Aug. 1.
Once the best-of-five play-in rounds and round-robin tournament for seeding is completed, the league will begin their 16-team postseason on Aug. 11, and start the second round on Aug. 25. After the opening two rounds of postseason play, the NHL will move the entire postseason operation to Edmonton for round three on Sept. 8, and begin the Stanley Cup Final on Sept. 22. The last possible day for the Final, per the NHL, is Oct. 4.
If all of this goes on as scheduled, the NHL will hold the 2020 NHL Draft on Oct. 9 and 10.
But, of course, all of these dates are tentative.
In addition to the passing of the Return-To-Play plans, the agreement also came with a four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement between the sides, led by Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, ensuring labor peace through the 2025-26 season.
“This agreement is a meaningful step forward for the players and owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time. This would not have happened but for the enormous contributions that the players made throughout, particularly those who served on the Negotiating and Return to Play Committees, as well as those on the Executive Board,” said Fehr. “I also thank Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the NHL staff for their efforts towards finding solutions to the problems we face. Most importantly, we are pleased to be able to bring NHL hockey back to the fans. We look forward to the NHL’s continued growth here in North America and on the world stage.”
The Bruins finished the regular season as the the Presidents’ Trophy winners, with a league-best 100 points.