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:
Two hub city concept featuring 24 teams in play. MORE: https://t.co/o7SNvkCriG pic.twitter.com/zeN1jBDW01— TSN (@TSN_Sports) May 18, 2020
The story is just a sketch of an idea so far summed up in the two tweets shown above. These two:
Nothing firmed up yet obviously but two hub cities instead of four is generating some buzz in discussions amongst teams. Las Vegas, for example, where an entire hotel/resort could be dedicated to the NHL and with easy access to the arena. https://t.co/PI8Se7MJsV— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 18, 2020
Oilers feel they could manage as many as a dozen teams in Edmonton if needed. https://t.co/LRHfvd3Xmg— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) May 18, 2020
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:
Maybe it’s semantics, but my understanding of what’s being talked about with the 24 teams is that it’s still 16 teams in the actual playoffs but that there would be “play-in” series to get into the field of 16... https://t.co/RzpiOZmtFA— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 18, 2020
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:
BTW, there are still multiple cities in the mix to be NHL hubs and the number of hubs is still TBD.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 18, 2020
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:
Bettman said 17 percent of players are outside North America. There are issues with borders and quarantines.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) May 18, 2020
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: