NHL players are voting tonight as to whether to accept the league’s proposal to return to a 24-team playoff. One source told Outkick that an official return announcement could come as soon as Friday while another said that a “tentative” return date for hockey is July 6th.
News about a potential 24-team playoff has been out there on Thursday. Sportsnet summarized that the top four seeds in each conference would get byes while the no. 5 seed plays no. 12, 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10, and 8 plays 9. The play-in round is best of five and the rest of the playoffs would be best of seven. There will likely be a couple of “hub” cities where the games are played. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported that cities under consideration include Las Vegas, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, and others.
Thursday night, LeBrun tweeted the following:
The NHLPA’s Executive Board (31 player reps) is in the process of voting on the 24-team Return to Play format. Voting could spill over into tomorrow. Should know results tomorrow night.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 22, 2020
If an announcement comes Friday, the NHL would beat the NBA and MLB back to an official declaration of return. The NBA has been making rapid progress towards a return; per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe the league could recall its players to their teams’ cities as early as June 1st. Games could happen by early to mid July. MLB has been squabbling over money, but reportedly making progress on safety issues.
Even with the big return momentum, the smaller NHL has received considerably less national attention than the NBA and MLB. It’s also possible that those leagues get their ducks in a row and have games before the NHL does. Nonetheless, the NHL could get a big jolt by being the first major American team sport to formally announce a return to play.