NHL plans for playoffs, recent positive COVID-19 tests leave uncertainty


David Zalubowski | Associated Press

In this Feb. 15, 2020, file photo, fans pose below the NHL league logo at a display outside Falcon Stadium before an NHL Stadium Series outdoor hockey game between the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche, at Air Force Academy, Colo. The uncertainty raised by coronavirus pandemic leads to experts providing a bleak short-term assessment on the NHL’s financial bottom line, with some projecting revenues being cut by almost half. What’s unclear is how large the impact might be until it can be determined when fans can resume attending games and if the league is able to complete this season.

By Kyle Mathas

DeKALB — The NHL is planning on holding playoffs before the end of summer.

With the NHL being in it’s Phase two stage of COVID-19 response, it is attempting to bring back the playoffs. It will have a Stanley Cup qualifiers with 16 teams playing eight best-of-five series. The top four teams in each conference will play a round robin to determine the Stanley Cup Playoff seeding. 

The NHL suspended play March 12 due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I want to make clear that the health and safety of our players, coaches, essential support staff and our communities are paramount.” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a June 9 brief from the NHL. “Let me assure you our fans and players have told us they want to see a fitting end to the season.” At the moment, the dates for the start of the playoffs are not finalized because of the uncertainty of the situation with the virus. 

The games will be held at two hub cities — one for the 12 Eastern Conference teams and the other for the 12 Western Conference teams. Candidates for the hub cities include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver, according to a report by the NHL. 

“Obviously we anticipate playing over the summer and into the early fall,” Bettman said in the brief. “At the time, we are not fixing dates because the schedule of our return to play will be determined by developing circumstances and the needs of the players.”

One of the developing situations around the NHL is how three players on the Tampa Bay Lightning tested positive for the coronavirus. That puts the eyes of the fans onto the NHL to see what they are going to do about it. 

“Upon receiving positive tests yesterday, team training facilities will remain temporarily shut down until we can ensure a safe environment,”the NHL said in a news release.

If the playoffs were to start soon, the teams from the Western Conference would be the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars in the round robin. In the qualifiers, it would be the Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.

In the Eastern Conference it would be the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers in the round robin. In the qualifiers, it would be the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Candians, Carolina Hurricanes, New Yok Rangers, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets. 

With the current state of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s positive tests, nothing seems certain yet.