After talking through majority of the week, the NHLPA announced on Friday evening that they have approved a new 24-team format. With the season’s end well in reach, they do this with the NHL still very much wanting to a name a Stanley Cup Champion. However, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of logistics in the days to come. This includes booking off dates and naming a location for the upcoming postseason.
How Does The Format Work?
With the new format now approved, we do know that hockey will be returning, however, for most teams, the first game they play won’t be on home ice nor in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first round, which at this time is widely expected to be a best of five series, will be a play-in round in order to determine which teams advance to the traditional 16-team playoff bracket.
As the announcement reads, this is subject to reaching an overall agreement with the National Hockey League on resuming the season. According to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun, the NHL will now go through its own process to come to terms with the NHLPA. As well, LeBrun also says to expect some form of announcement within the next few days.
In a statement from the NHLPA with regards to the announcement on Friday evening, they said, “The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”
Earlier on Friday evening, Pittsburgh Hockey Now reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins were “unhappy” with the proposal for the NHL Playoffs to become a a 24-team format with short play-in series. As such, Dan Kingerski said that the Penguins voted a unanimous hard no on the NHL’s return to play proposal.
As the night went on, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca reported that Pittsburgh NHLPA representative Kris Letang said the Penguins voted “yes” to the newly proposed playoff format. Discussing the matter at length, Letang, 33, said in statement, “At the end of the day, nobody gets exactly what they want. But, we all want what is best for hockey and to continue to grow the game.” The Montreal native also added that the safety of everyone remains paramount.
Learning earlier on Friday that Montreal had made the cut for the playoffs, Shea Weber said with regards to the format, “Obviously I think we’re excited. Do I think it’s fair to the tale of teams who were in the playoffs? No. But at the same time it gives us a chance to win and to keep playing.”
Breaking down the new 24-team format, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reported that the National Hockey League has been interested in a bracketed tournament. With that in mind, a handful of NHLPA members are voting in favour of reseeding all teams involved. This, of course, is another topic that at this time is pending further negotiation. As well, with a round robin to follow, Wyshynski says that the round for the league’s top four in each conference is subject to change.
Speaking with Mike Zigomanis and Scott MacArthur on Friday morning, Elliotte Friedman said on Sportsnet 590’s “Lead Off”, “The league initially suggested this play-in round be best two out of three and the players said no way. They felt it was not acceptable enough for the teams that had a better regular season and Pittsburgh looked at its matchup and it said ‘two out of three against Carey Price is not fair for a team that had zero percentage points to play in the playoffs.”
Continuing to break down the new format, Friedman said of the discussions internally, “If the players feel that way, the players feel that way. They’re the guy that they gotta shoot against and they clearly believe that he is a difference-maker … The players fought the two-out-of-three because of him.”
After learning that the Pittsburgh Penguins would play Montreal in a preliminary round series, Josh Yohe of The Athletic spoke this week with Penguins GM and Hall of Fame Jim Rutherford. In response to the 24-team format and what it would mean for his team in Pittsburgh, the Penguins GM stated clearly to Yohe, “We will be happy to play and we will do what the league wants, wherever, against whoever as long as it’s safe for everyone.”
Speaking further on this topic, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported late Friday afternoon that the NHL says even if there are two infections on a team, it doesn’t necessarily mean the entire team will be quarantined. Obviously, this presents many concerns which has many players and staff hesitant to return, even despite the ongoing conversations.
Since the time of the announcement, not many players have made comment publicly, but Victor Mete, Canadiens defensemen, took to Twitter and said with content, “Nyeeaaaa ehhhh?” With that being said, expect many others to start speaking out soon.