On the holiday Monday morning in Toronto, the internet was abuzz with rumours about the newest favoured format for a return to NHL hockey. While it’s possible all the “insiders” just woke up early and bored, the sheer volume of commenting about this makes it seem like there’s more to this than just the latest plan the NHL and NHLPA are discussing.

TSN even made this graphic:

The story is just a sketch of an idea so far summed up in the two tweets shown above. These two:

And a few days ago, the premier of BC made his pitch for Vancouver to be a hub city.

The format for a return to play is not finalized, but the focus has narrowed to 24 teams in the last few days, and that number has been repeated over and over regarding the playoff format and also in terms of exempting the bottom-ranked teams from returning for what would be some pointless games:

At the suspension of play, five Eastern Conference teams were separated by three points in the race for the two wild card spots. Florida was three points behind Toronto for the third spot in the Atlantic, while the Metropolitan was more firmed up with Metro teams fighting for the wild card along with the Panthers.

In the Western Conference, the top five teams in contention for the wild card spots were separated by six points, and with several teams within two or three points of the third place teams in their divisions.

The Detroit Red Wings were the only team absolutely unable to make a playoff spot in a full 82-game season.

To be clear, the two-hub idea is not yet a firm plan, it’s just one of the plans:

But disclaimers aside, this sure seems like smoke that might actually indicate there is a fire. But the June draft seemed like that once, as well, and for all we know, may again.

Nick Cotsonika livetweeted a presentation by Gary Bettman today at a sports business conference (this was conducted remotely). And Bettman makes a point that will likely be the axel all the NHL’s plans turn on:

The NHL has some unique challenges regarding travel and returning players that they have to overcome, and local regulations and authorities are the third voice in all of their planning.

There is a very strong likelihood that some decisions will be announced this week, perhaps beginning with the June deadlines for buyouts, RFAs, offer sheets, arbitration and the lead-up to free agency. Until then, we’re left to read into how hard TSN decided to work on a holiday to judge the solidity of the rumours.

The longform of Cotsonika’s coverage of Bettman:

NHL looking at 8-9 sites as options to restart season, Commissioner says