NHL, NHLPA Nearing Agreement on 24-Team Field for a Return to Play, According to Report

By Rob Mixer on May 17, 2020 at 12:42 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand fights for the puck against Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.

Might we see the Blue Jackets back on the ice this summer?

As our own Dan Dukart outlined earlier this weekend, a 24-team field for a return to play has the interest of NHL players and owners. There are several benefits to this, outside of the obvious (which is seeing NHL hockey again).

First, it means recouping some of the massive amounts of lost revenue. Having teams play in hub cities with multiples games per day is a made-for-TV masterpiece, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs would likely be played at an accelerated rate to get the season finished in time to start the 2020-21 season this winter.

Also, at a local level, it means the Columbus Blue Jackets would be involved.

While it remains to be seen which NHL cities would be awarded hub status for a resumption of the season, it sounds as though the league and NHLPA are on the same page when it comes to the format.

From Pierre Lebrun of The Athletic:

While there remains work to be done, and nobody involved is ready to say 100 percent where this is headed, sources confirm progress was made this weekend on a 24-team format for return to play.

I’m told the proposed 24-team format doesn’t go straight to the playoffs but involves games in some form before-hand. That would be something the players would have pushed for. Again, let me stress that both sides on the committee as of Sunday morning still had work to do on the format so it may yet change again.

The concept of "play-in" series, perhaps a best-of-three, makes a lot of sense.

There's also the issue of training camps, which could be anywhere from 1-3 weeks in length. But regardless of how it shakes out, it now seems more likely than not that the Stanley Cup will be awarded this summer.

And that's something to look forward to.