On Tuesday afternoon, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman delivered the return-to-play plan agreed upon by the league and the NHL Players' Association for the completion of the 2019-20 season suspended on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bettman announced that the regular season is over and places in standings are determined by points percentages — 24 teams, split into the top 12 from the two conferences, will be placed into separate "hub cities" for their portions of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Ten cities are still being considered for the two bubble sites.
10 cities are being considered for the two hub city spots that will host the Stanley Cup Playoffs. pic.twitter.com/bMLxSCvpRW— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) May 26, 2020
The hope is clubs will return to team facilities in early June, but formal training camp sessions won't get underway until at least early July. It's thought the Stanley Cup Playoffs will occur through the summer months into early autumn.
In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers will participate in a round-robin format to determine seeding.
The St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars will play for seeding in the West.
A look at the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture - outlined by the NHL Return to Play Plan.— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) May 26, 2020
The TOP 4 seeds in each conference will play a Round Robin tournament to decide seeding. pic.twitter.com/69TZ00WXfr
A look at the Western Conference Playoff Picture - outlined by the NHL Return to Play Plan.— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) May 26, 2020
The TOP 4 seeds in each conference will play a Round Robin tournament to decide seeding. pic.twitter.com/DvEvhx4XiY
The remaining playoff spots will be determined in best-of-five series.
For the Eastern Conference:
Dates aren't set for the resumption of play due to the uncontrolled virus outbreak. As James O'Brien of NBC Sports wrote, all plans are based upon testing abilities for players and other personnel, along with ever-changing government regulations and safety guidelines.
Teams will be limited to 50 personnel at hub cities, meaning players will quarantine away from family members for some time.
All penciled-in schedules and plans are subject to alterations and, even, cancelations. Hockey isn't officially back after today's announcement, but the league is closer to crowning a Stanley Cup champion than it's been since March 12.