NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league will split its 24-team playoff format in two hub cities, which have yet to be determined should the league resume play.
Bettman says each hub will play host to the top 12 teams in each conference with one based in an Eastern Conference city, and another in the West.
The league has narrowed its focus of hub cities to 10, and will make a final decision based on approval from local health officials.
The league expects players can begin returning to their home rinks early next month.
Training camps won’t open until July 1 at the earliest.
Bettman said the league is open to playing into early fall.
Bettman says games during the play-in format to determine the top 16 teams will be played under regular-season rules. The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will feature seven-game series.
Bettman says the league has yet to determine whether the first two playoff rounds will be five- or seven-game series.
Bettman has announced the league is moving ahead with a 24-team expanded playoff format if it’s able to resume play and award the Stanley Cup.
The plan was approved by the NHL’s board of governors, and comes days after the NHL Players’ Association’s executive committee gave the plan a green light.
Bettman stresses the plan’s approval doesn’t guarantee the resumption of games. The league and players must still determine safety protocols and solve other issues, including where to play.
Under the expanded format, the top four teams in each conference will play for seeding while the other 16 face off in a best-of-five or seven series. The league has been shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In going ahead with the top 12 teams in each conference, the decision officially ends the seasons of the league’s bottom seven teams. They are Anaheim, Buffalo, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Ottawa and San Jose.