It's game on for the National Hockey League this summer.
“Today, the NHL and the NHLPA announced a significant agreement that addresses the uncertainty everyone is dealing with, the framework for the completion of the 2019-20 season and the foundation for the continued long-term growth of our League,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a league statement. “I thank NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr and Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider, the more than 700 NHL Players - particularly those who worked on our Return to Play Committee - and the NHL’s Board of Governors for coming together under extraordinary circumstances for the good of our game. While we have all worked very hard to try to address the risks of COVID-19, we know that health and safety are and will continue to be our priorities. We know that all of our fans are excited about our return to the ice next month and that has been our goal since we paused our season on March 12.”
"This agreement is a meaningful step forward for the players and owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time. This would not have happened but for the enormous contributions that the players made throughout, particularly those who served on the Negotiating and Return to Play Committees, as well as those on the Executive Board,” said NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr in the league statement. “I also thank Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the NHL staff for their efforts towards finding solutions to the problems we face. Most importantly, we are pleased to be able to bring NHL hockey back to the fans. We look forward to the NHL’s continued growth here in North America and on the world stage.”
Along with this announcement, the league has confirmed that the cities of Edmonton, Alberta and Toronto, Ontario, Canada will be the two hub cities for the Return To Play format, with Edmonton also hosting the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final. Toronto will host the 12 Eastern Conference teams taking part in the playoffs, while Edmonton will host the 12 Western Conference teams involved.
Here is a look at the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round, as well as the teams involved in the seeding round-robin tournament:
5 - Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 - Montreal Canadiens
6 - Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 - New York Rangers
7 - New York Islanders vs. 10 - Florida Panthers
8 - Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 - Columbus Blue Jackets
5 - Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 - Chicago Blackhawks
6 - Nashville Predators vs. 11 - Arizona Coyotes
7 - Vancouver Canucks vs. 10 - Minnesota Wild
8 - Calgary Flames vs. 9 - Winnipeg Jets
The league said that the puck will drop again for the Return To Play format on Saturday, Aug. 1 with a five-game schedule to kick off the qualifying round.
These games in the play-in qualifying round are scheduled on a staggered basis, with games for the 10-day period set to take place at 12 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET in Toronto and 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET in Edmonton. These games may fluctuate by up to 30 minutes during the qualifying round.
For these games in the qualifying round and round-robin, the league is considering the stats as part of the 2020 postseason.
Teams participating in a best-of-five series during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers are considered to have made the postseason and participated in a postseason series