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Rick Zamperin: Gary Bettman announces new details on NHL’s return-to-play plan

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman outlined several key items Tuesday in the league's return-to-play plan.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman outlined several key items Tuesday in the league's return-to-play plan. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The National Hockey League‘s road map to the resumption of play became nearly crystal clear Tuesday afternoon.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced several key items, including the confirmation of the league’s 24-team playoff format.

It will see the top four teams in both conferences play in separate round-robin tournaments to determine seeding for the playoffs while the other eight teams will meet in a best-of-five “play-in” qualifying series to determine the final eight teams in both the East and West.

Coronavirus outbreak: NHL announces plan to resume 2019-20 season, will go right into playoffs
Coronavirus outbreak: NHL announces plan to resume 2019-20 season, will go right into playoffs

Bettman says the first- and second-round playoff matchups could be either best-of-five or best-of-seven series, but adds the conference finals and Stanley Cup final will be best-of-seven.

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All teams would play in two hub cities, one for Eastern Conference teams and one for the Western Conference and the commissioner also shed more light on the search for those two cities.

We now know that 10 cities are on the league’s short list, including Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

We also learned NHL training camps will start between July 1 and 15 and the NHL draft will be held after this season.

Bettman has not said when the league plans to start its 24-team playoff format after having to pause its season on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: Proposed NHL playoff format could include Toronto vs. Boston in Round 2, just sayin’

While the NHL’s road map to returning to action has been laid out, it still needs the green light from government and public health officials to play games.

It’s a big step in the process but there is still a long way to go before the puck is dropped.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program director, news and senior sports director with Global News Radio 900 CHML in Hamilton.