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  • Report: NHL targets Dec. 1 start for 2020-21 season
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, July 8, 2020

    The NHL is targeting a Dec. 1 start date to the 2020-21 regular season, in a plan that moves the season-opening games two months later that usual, ESPN reported Wednesday.

    • Other critical dates were also included in a memorandum of understanding that is being voted on by NHL players. The league's board of governors also has to approve it.

      According to the memorandum obtained by ESPN, the 2020 Stanley Cup Final will begin Sept. 20 and end no later than Oct. 2.

      The 2020 NHL Draft will be held Oct. 6.

      Training camps for the 2020-21 season will open Nov. 17.

      The dates were considered tentative and could be delayed.

      The league has been on hiatus since mid-March due to the coronavirus crisis.

      Under the league's return to play plan this summer, training camps for the NHL's 24-team tournament are scheduled to open Monday, with teams traveling to the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto on July 26. Games are expected to begin on Aug. 1.

      --Field Level Media

  • NHL, union agree to CBA extension, return-to-play protocols
    By Field Level Media / Monday, July 6, 2020

    The NHL and the NHL Players' Association announced Monday they have agreed "in principle" to a four-year extension of the current collective bargaining agreement, as well as further protocols for resuming the 2019-20 season.

    • According to the joint statement, the memorandum of understanding agreed upon by the two sides will extend the CBA through the 2025-26 season. The agreement on Phases 3 and 4 of the NHL's Return to Play Plan would see teams begin training camp in their local markets on July 13 (Phase 3), travel to two hub cities on July 26 (the start of Phase 4), and begin playing the Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Aug. 1.

      The location of the two hub cities -- one for 12 Eastern Conference teams and the other for 12 Western Conference teams -- have not been announced, though TSN's Bob McKenzie reported the cities are expected to be Toronto and Edmonton.

      Both the CBA extension and implantation of Phases 3 and 4 must still be ratified by the NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA membership. According to the release, the union is expected to vote in the next 3-5 days. The current CBA is scheduled to expire Sept. 15, 2022. The extension would carry it through Sept. 15, 2026.

      Play in the NHL was stopped on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed playoff schedule would end with a Stanley Cup champion in early October.

      According to the release, Phase 3 will allow players to participate in full team activities, both on and off the ice, and permit coaches, staff and the front office to conduct "typical training camp activities while following preventative measures." Those measures include enhanced COVID-19 testing and "diligent hygiene practices."

      When teams arrive in the hub cities, they will be housed in what the league is calling "Phase 4 Secure Zones" -- areas that will include hotels, restaurants, practice facilities and the playing arena. Anyone in these zones will be subject to daily testing, symptom screening and temperature checks.

      According to the TSN report, failure to comply with the protocols in the bubble "could lead to significant financial penalties, and potentially the loss of draft picks.' Also per the report, if a player tests positive for COVID-19 they will be deemed "unfit to play," which will be treated as a hockey-related injury under the CBA.

      --Field Level Media

  • NHL says nine more players test positive
    By Field Level Media / Monday, July 6, 2020

    The NHL announced Monday that nine additional players have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the leaguewide total to 35.

    • There were eight positive tests among players reporting to team training facilities for voluntary workouts in Phase 2 of the league's return-to-play plan. That raises the total to 23 positive results from more than 2,900 tests administered to date.

      Another player tested positive for COVID-19 outside of the Phase 2 protocol, bringing that total to 12.

      "All players who have tested positive have been self-isolated and are following CDC and Health Canada protocols," said the statement from the league office.

      The NHL said it will continue to provide regular updates on testing, but will not divulge information on the identities of the players or their teams.

      The start of formal training camps for the 24 teams participating in the restart, known as Phase 3, reportedly has been pushed back from July 10 to July 13.

      --Field Level Media

  • Reports: NHL, NHLPA agree on protocols to resume season
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, July 5, 2020

    The NHL and the NHL Players' Association have agreed on the return-to-play protocols for this season, according to multiple reports Sunday.

    • The sides reportedly were still negotiating an extension to their collective bargaining agreement. The NHLPA's executive committee must approve the protocols, and then that document -- as well as the CBA extension -- will be put to a vote of all NHL players, according to reports. The NHL's board of governors also must ratify the final packages.

      According to hockey insider Bob McKenzie of TSN, teams are targeting a return to training camp on July 13 (Phase 3) before reporting to two hub cities -- expected to be Toronto and Edmonton -- for games. The 24-team playoff (Phase 4) is set to begin August 1.

      Teams will be allowed to have a maximum of 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies during Phase 3, according to McKenzie. He added, citing the 40-page protocol document, that any player may opt out of Phase 3 and Phase 4 without penalty but must notify his team in writing by 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

      Dates and deadlines are subject to change.

      TSN also reported that there will be daily tests for those inside the NHL bubble, including players/coaches/staff members, officials, ice crew, security, hotel bartenders, food service staff, arena food and beverage, hotel housekeeping, hotel kitchen staff and transportation. Failure to comply with the protocols in the bubble "could lead to significant financial penalties, and potentially the loss of draft picks," TSN reported.

      If a player tests positive for COVID-19 they will be deemed "unfit to play," which will be treated as a hockey-related injury under the CBA, according to TSN.

      Play in the NHL was stopped on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed playoff schedule would end with a Stanley Cup champion in early October.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: NHL eyes Aug. 1 return-to-play date
    By Field Level Media / Friday, July 3, 2020

    The NHL is targeting July 13 for a return to training camp, with the league's 24-team playoff beginning on Aug. 1.

    • That's according to hockey insider Bob McKenzie of TSN, who also said that, under the plan, teams would report to their assigned hub cities on July 26. While the NHL has not made an official announcement, McKenzie said that those cities are expected to be Edmonton and Toronto.

      While several U.S. cities were in the mix to be a hub, the Canadian cities are the likely choice, in part because of the low rate of coronavirus cases in Canada compared to the United States. Play in the NHL was halted on March 12 because of the pandemic.

      McKenzie said the play-in qualifying series, which will be a best-of-five event, should end in the second week of August, with a Stanley Cup champion crowned in early October.

      As for the NHL draft, McKenzie said the second part of the NHL draft lottery -- when the team with the No. 1 overall pick will be announced -- would occur after the qualifying series. The draft would follow soon after the conclusion of the playoffs.

      Before any of these dates can be locked in, the league and the NHL Players' Association must reach an agreement on several key issues, including additional return-to-play protocols and an extension of the collective bargaining agreement. Once that is reached, the board of governors and players must ratify the deal.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Toronto, Edmonton likely NHL hub cities
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, July 1, 2020

    Toronto and Edmonton are likely to be selected as the two hub cities for the resumption of the 2019-2020 NHL season, according to multiple reports.

    • Mandatory training camps are scheduled to begin July 10, although ESPN reported camps could be delayed until July 13. The NHL is scheduled to resume with a 24-team tournament to award a Stanley Cup winner in 2020.

      The decision is expected to be finalized this week with player approval through a return-to-play vote.

      Las Vegas and Vancouver were reportedly the favorites in mid-June, but Nevada had its five highest days of COVID-19 positive tests reported in the past week and is not viewed as a realistic option.

      --Field Level Media

  • NHL: 26 players have COVID-19, 15 in Phase 2
    By Field Level Media / Monday, June 29, 2020

    A total of 26 NHL players have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last three weeks, the NHL announced Monday.

    • Fifteen of the 26 tested positive after reporting to their team's practice facility for voluntary workouts in Phase 2, which began June 8. More than 1,450 tests have been conducted for more than 250 players in Phase 2, according to the league's release.

      The other 11 positives are from players outside of Phase 2, meaning those who haven't yet reported to their teams. All have been self-isolating and following CDC and Health Canada protocols, according to the league.

      Last week, the league announced there had been 11 positive tests out of more than 200 players that had been tested regularly.

      In Phase 2, players have been allowed in facilities for voluntary workouts and time on the ice, with certain health restrictions in place. Phase 3 will mark the opening of training camps, currently set for July 10.

      Players, coaches and staff members may continue to stay where they wish through Phase 3. They will be isolated together in a hotel once Phase 4 -- the resumption of games -- begins in two hub cities, one for each conference.

      The Tampa Bay Lightning closed their facility earlier this month after three players and several staffers tested positive for the virus. They reopened on Wednesday, five days after shutting down.

      The NHL is targeting late July or early August for the first games in its return-to-play plan.

      --Field Level Media

  • NHL's first draft lottery doesn't set No. 1 pick
    By Field Level Media / Friday, June 26, 2020

    The NHL held the first phase of its 2020 draft lottery on Friday, and the No. 1 overall pick was awarded to ... no one.

    • The lottery results wound up with the winning slot belonging to a team to be determined after the play-in round of the league's expanded playoffs.

      The eight teams that lose their opening best-of-five series will each have a 12.5 percent chance of landing the top overall selection. A second lottery to determine that choice will be held after the play-in round concludes.

      The entry that emerged as the winner, unnamed "Team E," had a 2.5 percent chance of receiving the No. 1 choice. The overall odds of a placeholder team grabbing the top spot were 24.5 percent.

      The Los Angeles Kings, who had the fourth-highest odds of winning the lottery, jumped up to the No. 2 overall pick. The Ottawa Senators will pick third, using a draft choice acquired from the San Jose Sharks.

      Rounding out the selections determined Friday are the Detroit Red Wings at No. 4, the Senators at No. 5, the Anaheim Ducks at No. 6, the New Jersey Devils at No. 7 and the Buffalo Sabres at No. 8. Those five places were assigned in inverse order of regular-season points percentage.

      The Red Wings had the best chance of landing the top overall selection, 18.5 percent.

      After the second phase of the lottery is held, the seven other play-in losers will receive draft picks No. 9 to No. 15, in inverse order of their regular-season points percentage.

      The first-round draft choices from No. 16 to No. 31 will go to the remaining teams based on their playoff results.

      The Kings were happy to jump up in the selection order.

      "It gives us a real opportunity to get a player that is close to being ready to play in the NHL," team president Luc Robitaille said, according to NHL.com. "Any time you have that, you think as an organization you are going to get the second-best player available around the entire world, so you have a real good opportunity.

      "I was telling (Kings general manager) Rob Blake the last time we got the No. 2 pick it was Drew Doughty (in 2008) and we ended up winning the Cup (in 2012 and 2014) with him, and the other one was Jimmy Carson (in 1986) and we traded Jimmy for Wayne Gretzky (in 1988). So, it hasn't been bad for the L.A. Kings franchise, those two (No. 2) draft picks we have gotten in the past 20 or 30 years."

      Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said of his team's result, according to NHL.com, "Realistically, (I was) prepared to be sitting here today not talking about the first pick. I'm not really surprised. The bottom eight, or the eight playoff teams, had a 24.5 percent chance combined of getting the pick. So the odds were better that the first pick went to the bottom eight than it did us."

      --Field Level Media

  • Iginla, Hossa headline six-person Hall of Fame class
    By Field Level Media / Friday, June 26, 2020

    Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa were chosen for induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility as a six-member 2020 class was unveiled Wednesday.

    • The two forwards are joined by defensemen Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson. General manager Ken Holland and women's player Kim St-Pierre will also be enshrined.

      Iginla will become just the fourth Black inductee into the Hall of Fame. Grant Fuhr and Angela James were inducted for their play, while Willie O'Ree, who broke the NHL's color barrier, was chosen for his contributions.

      Iginla, who turns 43 on July 1, spent 15 1/2 of his 20 NHL seasons with the Calgary Flames. He recorded 625 goals and 675 assists (1,300 points) in 1,554 regular-season games from 1996-97 to 2016-17.

      "It's extremely special," Iginla said, according to NHL.com. "I had a hard time sleeping the past few nights. Starting my career, I didn't dream of making it to the Hall of Fame. It's a true honor, I've been extremely blessed. It's still sinking in."

      Hossa was part of three Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Chicago Blackhawks. He scored 1,134 points (525 goals, 609 assists) in 1,309 games from 1997-98 to 2016-17. His career included eight campaigns with the Blackhawks, seven with the Ottawa Senators, three with the Atlanta Thrashers and one each with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.

      "This honor means so much to me," Hossa said in the Hockey Hall of Fame's news announcement. "I would like to thank everyone who voted for me. I have learned so much about life through the game of hockey and am very appreciative of this recognition."

      Lowe was part of six Stanley Cup championship teams, five during a seven-year span with the Edmonton Oilers before he won one with the New York Rangers in 1994. Lowe scored 431 points (84 goals, 347 assists) in 1,254 games from 1979-80 to 1997-98, playing 15 seasons for the Oilers in two stints and four campaigns with the Rangers.

      "I think I perhaps represent the next level of guys who helped to win championships," Lowe said. "I appreciate that my contributions to the teams I played on are being recognized in this way."

      Wilson, who is currently the general manager of the San Jose Sharks, spent 14 of his 16 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and his final two with the Sharks. He scored 827 points (237 goals, 590 assists) in 1,024 games from 1977-78 to 1992-93.

      "I'm not even a Hall of Famer in my own house, so joining this club means the world to me," Wilson said. "I would like to thank all of the people who have been so good to me in this game."

      Holland, currently the general manager of the Oilers, was chosen for induction through the builder category. Holland won three Stanley Cup crowns during a 22-year stint (1997-2019) as GM of the Detroit Red Wings.

      "I am incredibly humbled by this honor," Holland said. "I am in this game because I loved it as a young man and I am happy to have been able to stay in the game."

      St-Pierre was a star goaltender who helped Canada's women win three Olympic gold medals (2002, 2006, 2010) and five world championship. She had a 1.17 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in her appearances for Team Canada.

      "Hockey has always been my passion and this is a very special honor," St-Pierre said. "When I was growing up it was only boys, and when that changed my dream was able to come (true)."

      St-Pierre is the eighth women's player named to the Hall of Fame. She is the first female goalie.

      "The Hockey Hall of Fame is proud to welcome these hockey legends as Honored Members," Hockey Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald said in the news release. "Their contributions to the game of hockey are well documented and their election to the Hockey Hall of Fame is richly deserved."

      The inductions are currently scheduled for Nov. 16, but the date could change depending on the coronavirus pandemic.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: NHL down to six possible hub cities
    By Field Level Media / Friday, June 26, 2020

    As the National Hockey League prepares to resume the 2019-2020 season next month, the league is down to six cities under consideration for the two hubs, according to multiple reports.

    • Chicago, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver are still in the running, with Pittsburgh and Dallas eliminated Tuesday.

      Columbus was informed it was crossed off the list on Monday.

      Reports over the weekend that Las Vegas and Vancouver were selected as the host cities have been denied.

      Las Vegas remains the favorite to host NHL playoff games, unless two Canadian cities are selected.

      Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver are also considered ideal spots for the NHL to resume play after federal and local governments helped clear the path for hockey to be played there last week.

      According to commissioner Gary Bettman, the NHL will select one city for the Eastern Conference playoffs and one for the Western Conference.

      The Stanley Cup Final, and possibly the conference finals, are expected to be played in one of the two hub cities.

      --Field Level Media

  • Thorburn retires after 14 seasons
    By Field Level Media / Friday, June 26, 2020

    Chris Thorburn announced his retirement Monday after 14 seasons and 801 games.

    • The physical forward registered 134 points (53 goals, 81 assists) and 968 penalty minutes with the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues.

      "Thank you to everyone who supported me, believed in me, and influenced me throughout my hockey career," he said in a statement.

      Thorburn won a Stanley Cup with the Blues during his final season in 2018-19.

      "I could not have scripted a better way to go out," he said. "... Thank you to my Blues teammates for taking me on a journey of a lifetime."

      Thorburn is the Jets/Thrashers franchise's all-time leader with 832 penalty minutes.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Leafs' Matthews tests positive for COVID-19
    By Field Level Media / Friday, June 26, 2020

    Toronto Maple Leafs All-Star center Auston Matthews has tested positive for COVID-19, the Toronto Sun reported on Friday.

    • Citing two "NHL sources outside Toronto," the Sun reported that Matthews, 22, is self-quarantining at his home in Arizona and hopes to be healthy enough and eligible to travel to Toronto in time for the opening of Leafs camp on July 10.

      According to the report, Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen was spending a lot of the break at Matthews' Scottsdale home but did not test positive for COVID-19 and is no longer in Arizona.

      The team has yet to announce anything on Matthews' condition, but one source told the Sun, "There's no blueprint for this. This is not an ankle injury."

      Matthews, the NHL's No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016, is in the first year of a five-year, $58 million contract. He set career highs in goals (47) and points (80) in 70 games this regular season. He has 158 goals and 127 assists for 285 points in 282 career regular-season games.

      The NHL suspended the regular season because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12. The league announced in May a plan to resume the season in late July with an expanded 24-team playoff format. The Maple Leafs, seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference, will play the ninth-seed Columbus Blue Jackets in a best-of-five series in the first round.

      The news comes just hours after reports surfaced claiming the Tampa Bay Lightning temporarily closed their training facility during Phase 2 of the NHL's return-to-play plan after multiple players and some staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.

      Phase 2 began last week with teams opening their training facilities for small groups of players and staff to conduct workouts.

      The Arizona Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche also had players and/or staffers test positive for COVID-19 during the hiatus.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bettman defends NHL's expansion playoff format
    By Field Level Media / Friday, June 26, 2020

    Commissioner Gary Bettman stands by the NHL's decision to admit 24 teams into the playoffs when action restarts this summer.

    • With the regular season declared complete and 24 teams headed to the newly revised postseason, 77 percent of the league's teams will be in the playoffs.

      Speaking Monday on ESPN's "The Return of Sports" special, Bettman said, "I think everybody can feel good, based on the combination of the play-in round and the way we're going to run the playoffs, that this will be a full competition which will bring out the best in our teams and our players. The Stanley Cup champion will be deserving of that crown and the most storied trophy in all of sports."

      The top four teams in each conference, based on points per game played, are guaranteed berths in the playoffs' round of 16. Those teams will conduct round robins to determine seeds No. 1 through No. 4 for each conference.

      At the same time, the playoffs will commence with series in each conference pitting seeds No. 5 vs. No. 12, No. 6 vs. No. 11, No. 7 vs. No. 10, and No. 8 vs. No. 9.

      "While the regular season was largely completed, we had a number of teams that were on the bubble," Bettman said on ESPN. "And you know we have extraordinary competitive balance (in the NHL) and any of those teams that were on the bubble outside of the top 16 in each conference had a legitimate chance of making the playoffs, some more than others. And we decided we needed a play-in round to give those teams a chance to ultimately make the playoffs, and that's going to be a best-of-five series."

      Following the opening round of the playoffs and the round robins involving the top teams, the remainder of the postseason will follow the traditional pattern: best-of-seven series in the round of 16, conference semifinals, conference finals and the Stanley Cup Final.

      Training camps are tentatively set to open July 10, putting the league on track to start games in early to mid-August. Play will be held in two hub cities that have yet to be announced, with one widely expected to be Las Vegas.

      Bettman said Canada's current requirement of a 14-day quarantine period for those entering the country might prevent the league from putting a hub north of the border.

      "We are working particularly with the Canadian government about determining how we can deal with moving from the training camp phase to a possible hub in Canada," Bettman said. "Because obviously if the players would have to quarantine for 14 days in between training camp and going to the hub, that wouldn't work."

      Once teams are in a hub city, daily COVID-19 tests would be administered.

      "If there's one positive test -- again, this will be under the strict guidance of the medical people -- that person will be isolated," Bettman said. "And we'll be monitoring anybody, through contact tracing, that was in close proximity. Obviously, for any sport, if you have a major outbreak, it's going to change everything, but we're being told that an isolated case or a couple of isolated cases shouldn't interfere with the plans, and we should be able to move forward."

      --Field Level Media

  • Trudeau: Canada 'open' to hosting NHL restart
    By Field Level Media / Friday, June 26, 2020

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the country is "open" to and "comfortable" with the possibility of one of its cities serving as a hub for the NHL's restart later this summer, despite current travel restrictions in place.

    • Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver are among 10 cities being considered by the NHL, which will choose two hub cities, one for each conference.

      "Three Canadian cities are asking for it," Trudeau said at his daily briefing. "Obviously the decision has to be made by the NHL and the cities and the provinces. Canada is open to it as long as it is OK'd by the local health authorities."

      Also on Tuesday, Canada extended its border closure for non-essential travel through at least July 21, which will be four months after it began. But the restriction has not prevented NHL players from traveling back and forth as they have returned to their teams recently for voluntary workouts in Phase 2 of the restart plan.

      Under the NHL's 24-team restart plan, teams will open training camps July 10. They then would move to their conference's hub city for games likely starting in late July or early August.

      Other cities being considered as hubs are Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Pittsburgh.

      ESPN reported Monday that the NHL would "still really like" to pick a Canadian city as one of the hubs, adding that no decisions had been reached but that it could happen this week.

      Sportsnet reported last week that Las Vegas likely will be one of the hub cities.

      --Field Level Media

  • NHL, NHLPA agree to open training camps July 10
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, June 11, 2020

    The National Hockey League and NHL Players Association agreed to open training camps on July 10 for the 24 teams participating in this summer's restart.

    • Camps will only open if "medical and safety conditions allow," according to Thursday's announcement. Still to be determined is the length of training camp and therefore an exact start date for the resumption of play.

      The league halted play on March 12 amid the coronavirus pandemic, and commissioner Gary Bettman announced last month that the NHL would end its current hiatus with 24 teams resuming play in two hub cities. The cities are yet to be determined.

      Training camp is Phase 3 of the league's Return to Play Plan. Phase 2 began this week, allowing teams to reopen training facilities to let players return for voluntary workouts.

      If training camps successfully open on July 10, that would point to a possible resumption of play in early-to-mid-August.

      --Field Level Media

  • Kane, Aliu to chair new Hockey Diversity Alliance
    By Field Level Media / Monday, June 8, 2020

    San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane and retired forward Akim Aliu will serve as co-chairs of a new Hockey Diversity Alliance aimed at making hockey a more inclusive sport.

    • In a statement released Monday, a group of seven past and present players of color said the group's mission is "to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey."

      Along with Kane and Aliu, the HDA's executive committee includes Detroit Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Buffalo Sabres forward Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers forward Chris Stewart and retired forward Joel Ward.

      "We will strive to be a force for positive change not only within our game of hockey, but also within society," read a statement from the group. "Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes."

      Their objectives include promoting diversity at all levels of the game through community outreach, engagement with youth and education about the "racism issues confronting the sport."

      The HDA plans to launch a charitable division in the coming weeks.

      "We are confident we can inspire a new generation of hockey players and fans," read the statement. "We are hopeful that anyone who puts on skates or sits in the stands will do so without worrying about race, gender or socioeconomic background and will be able to express their culture, identity, values, and personality without fear of retribution."

      --Field Level Media

  • NHL, players agree on playoff format
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, June 4, 2020

    The NHL and its players agreed to a 24-team playoff format for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

    • The two sides shook Thursday on the deal, which includes a best-of-five format for the qualifying round before shifting to the traditional best-of-seven series format.

      The league halted play on March 12 amid the coronavirus pandemic, and commissioner Gary Bettman announced last week that the NHL would end its current hiatus with 24 teams resuming play in two hub cities.

      Following the qualifying round, all four playoff rounds will be best-of-seven series. The league and the NHLPA also agreed the playoffs would not follow the traditional bracketed format, but instead they will be seeded again after every round.

      "While nothing is without risk, ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so," Bettman said last week. "Let me assure you that the reason we are doing this is because our fans have told us in overwhelming numbers that they want to complete the season if at all possible. And our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion."

      Also Thursday, the league announced a transition to Phase 2 of its Return to Play Plan, allowing teams to reopen their training facilities starting June 8 to let players return for voluntary workouts. Not a substitute for training camp, Phase 2 gives players a "safe and controlled environment in which to resume their conditioning," the league said in a statement.

      The league is targeting the start of games in late July or early August, but much still must be figured out. That includes the two hub cities, whether family members will be able to join the players in the hub, and measures to combat the coronavirus.

      Bettman has said the NHL will test players daily for COVID-19.

      Players will not be required to return to their home cities until training camp begins, which is expected to happen before the middle of next month. The NHL and NHLPA still have not determined how long the training camp will last.

      The top four teams in each conference are guaranteed playoff spots, and they will play a single round-robin competition to determine seeding. Meanwhile, teams ranked fifth through 12th in each conference will face off in the qualifying round for the final four spots in each conference's playoffs.

      In the Eastern Conference, that means the Boston Bruins (ranked first), Tampa Bay Lightning (second), Washington Capitals (third) and Philadelphia Flyers (fourth) will receive playoff spots, with round-robin play to determine seeding. The next eight East teams will play in best-of-five series, with the matchups as follows:

      No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens

      No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 11 New York Rangers

      No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida Panthers

      No. 8 Toronto Blue Jackets vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets

      In the West, the St. Louis Blues (first), Colorado Avalanche (second), Vegas Golden Knights (third) and Dallas Stars (fourth) have locked in playoff spots, with round-robin play to determine seeding. The next eight West teams will play best-of-five series, with these matchups:

      No. 5 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks

      No. 6 Nashville Predators vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes

      No. 7 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 10 Minnesota Wild

      No. 8 Calgary Flames vs. No. 9 Winnipeg Jets

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Non-playoff teams will be allowed to trade
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, May 28, 2020

    When the NHL season resumes with a 24-team postseason, the seven teams left out of the playoffs apparently won't be entirely left out of the action.

    • According to a report Thursday by The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun, the seven teams that will not be part of the postseason will be allowed to trade, but only with other non-playoff clubs.

      Those seven teams are the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils.

      This is actually keeping with traditional NHL rules, as teams are allowed to make trades after the trade deadline. However, NHL regulations prohibit players acquired after the deadline from playing in the postseason with their new team, hence why post-deadline trades are so rare.

      The seven non-playoff teams will be placed in the draft lottery, which also will include the eight teams that are eliminated during the best-of-five qualifying round for the playoffs.

      The lottery will feature two phases, with the first phase taking place June 26, before the qualifying postseason round. If the top three picks are all awarded to bottom-seven teams, the second phase of the lottery won't take place, and all remaining teams will be seeded in reverse order of the regular-season standings.

      The eight teams that lose in the qualifying round will have equal lottery odds if a second phase is held.

      The 24-team playoffs will begin as soon as late July in two hub cities, which have yet to be determined.

      --Field Level Media

  • Draisaitl wins Art Ross, Ovechkin wins 9th Richard Trophy
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, May 28, 2020

    With the NHL regular season officially deemed final, the league announced its regular-season trophy winners on Thursday, led by Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl and more history made by Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin.

    • Draisaitl won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leader in points after finishing with 110, 13 clear of teammate Connor McDavid, who finished second. The 24-year-old, who led the league in assists (67) and ranked fourth in goals (43) was on pace to post 127 points if the full 82-game season had been played.

      Ovechkin, meanwhile, shared the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading goal scorer with the Boston Bruins' David Pastrnak, with both totaling 48. Ovechkin won the trophy for the third straight year, the seventh time in eight years and the ninth time overall, all of which are records since the trophy was introduced in 1998-99.

      Even before the trophy was introduced, no player led the league in goals more than seven times (Bobby Hull).

      Ovechkin, who turns 35 in September, also became the third player to lead the league in goals at age 34 or older, joining the New York Rangers' Bill Cook (28 goals in 48 games in 1932-33) and Detroit's Gordie Howe (38 goals in 70 games in 1962-63).

      Ovechkin, who missed one game, played in 68 games, putting him on pace to score 57 if he had finished the season. That would have eclipsed the second-highest total of his career (56 in 2008-09), behind only his career high of 65 in 2007-08.

      Pastrnak scored his 48 goals in 70 games (on pace for 56 goals in 82 games), eclipsing his career high -- set last season -- by 10. He is the first Bruin ever to win the Richard Trophy.

      Pastrnak's Bruins added other accolades, including the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best record (44-14-12, 100 points, .714 percentage). Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak won the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltenders of the team that allowed the fewest goals (174).

      Rask went 26-8-6 with a league-best 2.12 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage, which ranked second in the NHL. Halak finished 18-6-6 with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage.

      Among other league leaders, Washington's John Carlson led all defensemen in points (75), while Columbus' Zach Werenski led the position in goals (20). Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes led all rookies in points (53), with Chicago's Dominik Kubalik leading the rookies in goals (30).

      Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin posted an NHL-best .930 save percentage.

      The regular season was deemed final on Tuesday, when the NHL announced its plans to return from its pause -- caused by the coronavirus pandemic -- with a 24-team modified playoff system in late summer.

      --Field Level Media

  • Penguins F Bjugstad has surgery, out for planned playoffs
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, May 27, 2020

    Pittsburgh Penguins forward Nick Bjugstad had surgery to repair a herniated disc on Tuesday and is out for the planned NHL playoffs.

    • In a news release, the team said the surgery was successful and that Bjugstad would be sidelined for at least eight weeks.

      Bjugstad missed the Penguins' final game before the season was halted due to the coronavirus, a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on March 10. He sat out that game with what was called a lower-body injury.

      The 2019-20 season was a disappointing one for Bjustad, 27, who was limited to just 13 games because of injuries. He had core muscle surgery in November.

      General manager Jim Rutherford announced the surgery on Wednesday, saying, "Bjugstad had a setback in his rehab."

      On the season, Bjustad had two points (one goal, one assist). The Minnesota native was the No. 19 overall pick of the Florida Panthers in 2010.

      The NHL announced its Return to Play plan on Tuesday, which immediately ended the regular season and shifted to a 24-team playoff. The Penguins (40-23-6) will play the Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9) under the playoff plan, at a time and date still to be determined.

      Also Wednesday, Rutherford said forward Jake Guentzel should be ready for the Penguins. Guentzel last played Dec. 30 and had shoulder surgery the next day. In 39 games on the season, he had 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists).

      "Jake is going through his rehab," Rutherford said. "Things are progressing fine. We still have a ways to go before we start playing. We are optimistic that he will be ready to play."

      --Field Level Media

  • Alberta asks Trudeau to lift travel ban for NHL
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, May 27, 2020

    Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is asking Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, to set aside coronavirus-related travel restrictions to bolster Edmonton's chances of becoming an NHL hub city.

    • Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday that the NHL will end its current hiatus with 24 teams resuming play in a playoff format in two hub cities as soon as late July.

      Three Canadian cities - Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver - are among the 10 cities under consideration to host the playoffs, but Bettman said Canadian cities could be eliminated if the nation doesn't exempt NHL personnel from border crossing rules.

      Kenney outlined to Trudeau in a letter dated Tuesday just how Edmonton could keep NHL players and staff safe, including the establishment of a "quarantine zone" that includes using hotels linked to the arena. He said local public health officials support the plan.

      "Alberta began its phased relaunch of our economy on May 14, and there have been no measurable increases in the case numbers for coronavirus in the province. New COVID-19 cases in Edmonton are averaging one per day, with recovered cases far outweighing any new infections," he wrote.

      Under the plan laid out by Bettman on Tuesday, each hub city will have secure arenas, practice facilities, hotels and local transportation for players, coaches and essential staffs. Teams will be limited to a staff of just 50 members in each hub city, and fewer will be permitted in event areas. Each hub city will have a comprehensive system of coronavirus testing set up before any play resumes.

      --Field Level Media

  • Take 5: NHL restart plan makes dollars and sense
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, May 26, 2020

    There remain as many questions as answers as the NHL unveiled its return-to-play plan Tuesday, but give the league credit: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a road map is in place.

    • Sure, we don't know whether the league will actually resume action paused on March 12, but the hope that 24 teams will begin training camps sometime in July, play games in two hub cities and hand out the Stanley Cup is trying to make the best of a horrible situation.

      Although a second wave of the virus that has officially resulted in the death of approximately 350,000 people around the world could derail the NHL's plan, some hope of normalcy in our lives is welcome news.

      Even trying to decipher the draft-lottery system is a lot more fun than looking at the latest virus figures from Johns Hopkins University or being caught in the political vortex that's resulted from it all.

      As the NHL optimistically looks to the future, here are five takeaways from the restart plan that catch our eye:

      1. It's OK to think about dollars and cents

      It's easy to say the league wants to finish the season for no other reason than to collect as much sponsorship and television revenue as possible, but provided everyone is able to stay safe, that's not a bad thing. It is a business that impacts the economy.

      The teams have paid players the bulk of their annual salaries, so it's fair for the owners to try recouping some money even without ticket sales and connected revenue from concessions, parking and souvenirs.

      Hockey fans will happily tune in to the Stanley Cup sprint and be thankful for the distraction from all the negative we've survived.

      2. It's no debate: The Cup champ will be legitimate

      It's absurd to say whichever team hoists the Stanley Cup when the season ends should have an asterisk next to their crown. That's not the case with the New Jersey Devils' title from 1995, and it won't be this year, either.

      No matter what happens, the champion must win at least four series to claim that honor. (Count the qualifying-round series in which 16 teams must play, and it could mean winning five rounds.)

      Don't think for a second that any team will be given a free pass. In fact, with the layoff allowing most players to be 100 percent healthy, some underdogs will be even stronger than they would have been had life been normal.

      3. Skewered in Buffalo

      The poor Buffalo Sabres officially have missed the playoffs nine straight seasons, sidelined by the points-percentage format. Buffalo (.493 points percentage) was three points back of the Montreal Canadiens (.500) with two games in hand, but it won't get a chance to erase that gap.

      The other six teams eliminated on Tuesday (the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks) weren't even remotely close to a playoff position, so they happily avoid the indignity of playing out the string. (The Devils had the same points, 68, and games played, 69, as the Sabres but were buried in the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.)

      A saving grace for the downtrodden Sabres franchise would be a draft-lottery win, but not having a chance to skate in a playoff game is a tough consequence of an improvised system that never could be perfect.

      4. Missed opportunity to renew a great rivalry

      Other than the obvious of not being able to watch games live and in person, there aren't many negatives.

      Had the league gone straight into playoffs based on existing standings, though, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames would have renewed Battle of Alberta hostilities in the playoffs for the first time since 1991.

      (We also miss out on a Pennsylvania showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, but they last met in the postseason two years ago, so it's not the same).

      It's possible these rivalries will be fired up after the qualifying round, but there are no guarantees.

      5. Give the underdogs their due

      The Columbus Blue Jackets were a bubble team when the games were halted. However, no team in the mix was as besieged by injuries as they were. Not far behind were the Winnipeg Jets.

      The long layoff certainly gives everyone as much an opportunity to skate with a full roster as we've ever seen before the playoffs begin, so don't be shocked if the Blue Jackets provide another opening-round upset.

      Other teams to watch are the Minnesota Wild, who were finding their form just before time stood still, and the veteran-laden Chicago Blackhawks, who will face the young Oilers.

      --By Randy Sportak, Field Level Media

  • NHL announces 24-team return in July or later
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, May 26, 2020

    The NHL will end its current hiatus with 24 teams resuming play in two hub cities as soon as late July, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced in a video briefing on Tuesday.

    • Bettman laid out a general framework of the NHL's plan, though many dates, locations and formats have yet to be finalized as the league takes a wait-and-see approach amid the coronavirus pandemic. Several points are certain, however.

      The regular season has essentially been deemed complete, and the top 12 teams from each conference -- determined by points percentage when play was suspended on March 12 -- will either advance directly to the 16-team playoffs or to a play-in competition. Each conference will be placed in a yet-to-be-determined hub city, with all competitions played in the two hub cities.

      Bettman said, "Although we are anxious to get back on the ice, we will not do anything until we are assured by medical professionals and the relevant government authorities that it is safe and prudent to do so."

      The top four teams in each conference are guaranteed playoff spots, and they will play a single round-robin competition to determine seeding. Meanwhile, teams ranked fifth through 12th in each conference will face off in a best-of-five series for the final four spots in each conference's playoffs.

      In the Eastern Conference, that would mean the Boston Bruins (ranked first), Tampa Bay Lightning (second), Washington Capitals (third) and Philadelphia Flyers (fourth) will receive playoff spots, with round-robin play to determine seeding. The next eight East teams will play in best-of-five series, with the matchups as follows:

      No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens

      No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 11 New York Rangers

      No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida Panthers

      No. 8 Toronto Blue Jackets vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets

      In the West, the St. Louis Blues (first), Colorado Avalanche (second), Vegas Golden Knights (third) and Dallas Stars (fourth) have locked in playoff spots, with round-robin play to determine seeding. The next eight West teams will play best-of-five series, with these matchups:

      No. 5 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks

      No. 6 Nashville Predators vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes

      No. 7 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 10 Minnesota Wild

      No. 8 Calgary Flames vs. No. 9 Winnipeg Jets

      In the round robins, regular-season overtime rules will be used, meaning teams will earn two points for a win and one for an overtime/shootout loss. Any ties following round-robin play will be broken by regular-season record, rather than any results (including head-to-head results) from the round robin.

      The best-of-five qualifying series will be played with standard playoff overtime rules.

      Once the seeds are set and the field has been trimmed to 16 teams, the playoffs will proceed mostly as normal, but with some potential changes.

      The playoffs could have teams reseeded after each round (with the highest remaining seed playing the lowest remaining seed) or they could play out using a bracket format. Bettman told NBCSN's Mike Tirico that the players' preference will decide which format is used, adding that the players prefer reseeding but have yet to make a firm decision.

      Additionally, the first two rounds of the 16-team playoffs could be best-of-five series instead of best-of-seven, with a decision to be made later. The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will remain best-of-seven.

      As to when or where action will begin, the league is remaining flexible. Clubs are expected to return to home facilities for voluntary, small-group training in early June, but training camps cannot begin until at least July 1. With at least a few weeks of training camp expected, that would put the first games in late July at the earliest. Bettman said the goal is to leave room for a full season in 2020-21.

      The hub cities have also yet to be determined, although there are 10 finalists, including three in Canada: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.

      "Things are evolving rapidly, and when we decide on locations, we want it to be on the best available information at the time that we need to make that determination," Bettman said.

      Each hub city will have secure arenas, practice facilities, hotels and local transportation for players, coaches and essential staffs. Teams will be limited to a staff of just 50 members in each hub city, and fewer will be permitted in event areas. Each hub city will have a comprehensive system of coronavirus testing set up before any play resumes.

      Meanwhile, the league's bottom seven teams -- the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils -- will not return to play. They will be placed in the draft lottery, which also will include the eight teams that are eliminated during the best-of-five qualifying round for the playoffs.

      The lottery will feature two phases, with the first phase taking place June 26, before the qualifying round. If the top three picks are all awarded to bottom-seven teams, the second phase of the lottery won't take place, and all remaining teams will be seeded in reverse order of the regular-season standings. The eight teams that lose in the qualifying round will have equal lottery odds.

      The league's format for the return to play and the lottery was a collaboration of NHL executives, NHL Players' Association members and five players: Ottawa Senators defenseman Ron Hainsey, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele, Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares and Philadelphia Flyers right winger James van Riemsdyk.

      Bettman said that the goal was to create the most fair opportunity for all teams who could have plausibly reached the postseason had the regular season not been suspended.

      --Field Level Media

  • NHL eyes voluntary small group training in Phase 2
    By Field Level Media / Monday, May 25, 2020

    The NHL and NHL Players' Association are targeting a date in early June for their transition to Phase 2 of their return to play initiative in a memo distributed to all teams and players late Sunday.

    • A specific date to begin Phase 2 was not released in the memo. The length of Phase 2 is still to be determined as the NHL attempts to resume the 2019-20 season after it was paused on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

      Per the memo, the NHL is continuing to "monitor developments in each of the club's markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate."

      The Phase 2 agreement stipulates a maximum of six players allowed to participate in on-ice workouts at one time. On-ice sessions are only for players, with no coaches or other team personnel allowed on the ice.

      Players must wear face coverings entering and leaving the facility as well as when social distancing cannot be maintained except when on the ice.

      Per the memo, all player participation in Phase 2 is "strictly voluntary."

      On Friday, the NHLPA's executive board approved a proposal to resume the 2019-20 season with a 24-team, conference-based playoff format, pending further discussions between the league.

      Other issues remain to be worked out between the two sides before the players will return to the ice, the union said.

      Phase 1 involved self-quarantine for players and hockey staff on March 12.

      --Field Level Media

  • Canadian teams begin refund process for season ticketholders
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, May 23, 2020

    All seven Canadian NHL teams have begun the process of refunding or offering rebates to their season ticketholders, an acknowledgment that hockey will not be returning to the country for the 2019-2020 season.

    • In a four-day span in mid-May, every Canadian team reached out with plans for refunds or discounted options for next season, The Canadian Press reported Saturday.

      "It has become increasingly apparent, that any possibility will not include any further games being played this season in front of fans at Bell MTS Place," the Winnipeg Jets said in an email to their season ticketholders.

      The NHL remains on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, and a restart to the season is expected to be played in hub cities to be determined in the United States.

      The NHL Players' Association executive board on Saturday approved a proposal to resume the season with a 24-team, conference-based playoff format in empty arenas.

      --Field Level Media