The NHL has had a secret that nobody in the league kept very well. It is now official that hockey will return to finish the 2019-20 season.
The St. Louis Blues have known they were going to get an opportunity to win their second Stanley Cup for awhile. We have known most of the plan to restart the NHL for around a month, but kept waiting.
We will wait no longer. Well, we will wait a few more weeks, but we will wait no longer for details about hockey coming back.
All the gritty little items have been worked out and the NHL and NHLPA have finally dotted all their i’s and crossed all the t’s. The NHL is officially back.
The funny thing is this is basically the worst kept secret ever. All the things that were rumored have become official now that the players association has voted on it all.
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The league will resume with games starting on August 1st. Toronto will host the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference teams will convene in Edmonton.
There were whispers of the conferences switching so that no team would have any perceived advantage of playing in their home rink. While that would have been fair, it would also put teams in odd time zones.
You should not cater to this team or that, but the reality is the ratings will be better if a team like Toronto plays at a more normal time for the east coast and western teams are not playing at 9 am in their time zone. It’s just easier to do it this way.
Also confirmed is that Edmonton will host everything, starting with the conference finals. In theory, you keep the bubble more intact if you’d keep the Eastern Conference Final in Toronto, but I believe the feeling is if you move the conference final to Edmonton, you mitigate the risk of positive tests immediately before the Stanley Cup Final.
August 10th will be the date where the top pick in the NHL Draft will be decided. All eight teams will have been eliminated from the play-in round by then.
The Stanley Cup Final should end no later than October 4th. The draft will be held October 9th and 10th.
The collective bargaining agreement has officially been extended through the summer of 2026. This will allow the league much better footing to negotiate a new television deal, which will benefit both owners and players in the future.
As discussed before, the salary cap will be stagnant at $81.5 million. That is going to make it tough for plenty of teams that were making plans based on the cap going up, but it’s much better than it going down by any amount.
Last, but not least, one of the things that was heavily rumored but finally came to fruition is the NHL once again allowing its players to participate in the Olympics. Assuming the games do not get pushed back, NHL players will be eligible for selection to their national teams for the 2022 games and those in 2026.
Since the NHL did not capitalize on the success of the World Cup, it will be good to see NHL players in international competition. The only hangup there is agreements being reached with the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee, but that should not be a problem when the money will no doubt be better if pros are involved.
Circling back to the NHL restart, we also know the dates.
The Blues will have games on August 2nd, against the Colorado Avalanche, August 6th, against the Vegas Golden Knights and then August 9th against the Dallas Stars. The teams’ records will dictate who they play from the play-in games and the official first round of the playoffs will begin.
Times of the games were not yet listed. There is no firm information regarding that, with some speculating the round-robin games being first makes most sense given you know when it will end due to regulation OT rules. Others feel it better to put those games last for the same reason. There may be no consensus as television might decide based on the matchups.
Still, if all we have left to wonder about is what time the games will be at, we have reached a pretty good place. It will stink to have games on in the middle of the day when people who are working cannot watch, but at least the game is returning.
The NHL has done a great job during all of this. They kept any bickering in house, got a CBA ratified without any nastiness in the press or threat of lockouts and got the players to buy in despite odd rumors of large amounts of players being against it.
Now, let’s get to August and drop the puck!