By: D. Westphalen
Like most other major sports leagues, the NHL (National Hockey League) paused its season in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, almost at the end of the season, with a dozen games to go. In early May, the NHL created a plan to resume the games. The first one was to have a host city for each conference. This host city would be where all the games of one conference would be held, to minimize the risk of infecting the players. The host cities chosen were Toronto for the eastern conference and Edmonton for the western. The cities were chosen based on COVID-19 statistics and whether they had the infrastructure to host all the teams.
The second step was to decide how the playoffs would be organized, and how many teams would be involved. As the season was almost finished, the NHL didn’t find it necessary to finish the last games in the regular season, instead they decided to do a qualifying round. 24 teams would be invited to play in the qualifying rounds – the 12 best from each conference. The four teams with the best record in each conference would play a round robin to determine their seedings. The other eight teams would play a best-of-five series with the winners classifying for the playoffs.
For the seven teams not going to the qualifiers, they will participate in the draft lottery to determine who will get the top picks. This event is scheduled to occur on the 9th-10th of October, after the playoffs.
Throughout August, the NHL has been able to guarantee the safety of the players, by creating a bubble in their hotels where the players are daily tested and have all the equipment necessary to prevent infecting the players, similar to what the NBA is doing in Orlando.