By Joseph Phillips, Crusader Sports Writer
The Chicago Blackhawks will make the playoffs after the NHL announced its plans last week for a 24-team new league format to compete for this year’s Stanley Cup. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the 24-team return to play format would go into effect for the remainder of the 2019-20 NHL season.
“The Qualifying Round and Seeding Round Robin will be held at two hub cities to be identified,” according to NHL.com. “One for the 12 participating Eastern Conference teams and one for the 12 Western Conference teams—and begin at a date to be determined. Candidates for the hub cities include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.” According to Bettman and NHL.com, the tournament will begin with a 16-team, eight-series Qualifying Round and a Seeding Round Robin among the top four teams in each conference to determine seeds for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I want to make clear that the health and safety of our players, coaches, essential support staff and our communities are paramount,” said Bettman about the announcement of the players’ Return to Play Plan. “While nothing is without risk, ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so. 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.”
The format was determined in meetings of the Return to Play Committee, which included executives from the NHL and NHL Players Association, 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 forward James van Riemsdyk.
The league said the objective was to find a way to award the Stanley Cup this season after the season came to an halt on March 12, due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. League times and playing dates to be announced.