According to Mark Spector over at Sportsnet, nine to 12 teams are bidding to become hosts for a quarantined version of the 2020 NHL playoffs.
In a similar vein to a city putting forward a bid to host the Olympics, this process requires teams to put together a “bid book” that outlines a handful of logistics, such as where they would house 600 to 1,000 people, how close hotels and stadiums are together, and how people would be fed and kept safe.
Last week, I took an in-depth look at what it would take for Edmonton to host the entirety of the playoffs this summer, with 16 teams arriving in the city and existing in a quarantine bubble over multiple weeks while the games are executed. Though it isn’t known which teams are bidding to be hosts, Edmonton still makes plenty of sense to be one of the four locations given the city’s low rate of COVID-19 cases and the proximity of Rogers Place to multiple hotels.
The NHL’s current goal is to complete the 2019-20 regular season even if it means playing meaningless games between non-playoff teams because everybody has regional television deals that need to be satisfied. But, if that isn’t possible, the league’s top plan is reportedly to have six teams play mini-tournaments in each of the four cities.
The No. 1 and No. 2 placed teams in each division would square off in a three-game series to determine who wins the division while the No. 3 team would play the No. 6 team and the No. 4 team would play the No. 5 team in a three-game series in order to keep going.
So, in this instance, the Oilers would play the Golden Knights for the Pacific Division crown and top seed through the mini-tournament. The Canucks, who have the third-highest points percentage, would play the Ducks, and the Flames would square off against the Coyotes.
Though it isn’t specified in Spector’s article, I would assume that the four teams that win their respective mini-tournaments would then proceed to play a Final Four type tournament in a mutual city to determine the Stanley Cup winner. The two Western teams and the two Eastern teams would play each other and the winners, of course, would make the Stanley Cup Final.
After that, the focus then shifts to the off-season, which could shove the draft and free agency back as late as October and November with the 2020-21 season getting started in mid-to-late-December. As Chris Johnston noted yesterday, the league is best to be patient with next season because the longer they wait, the more games they’re likely to host with fans, which is key for a gate-driven league.
Personally, I think this is a good format for executing the playoffs. I don’t think it’s feasible for any city to host the entirety of a 16-team playoff by themselves, so breaking it down into six teams per city makes it a lot more doable. Expanding to include the No. 6 team in each division might be a bit of stretch, but nobody can complain that they’re being left out (well, save for the Rangers who finished seventh in the loaded Metro Division despite posting a 37-28-5 record).
Of course, all of this is contingent on public health officials giving the green light for such an endeavour. The league under no circumstances can put its players and staff at risk and teams also can’t be opening their cities to an influx of the virus either. Executing this would be a massive undertaking, but it’s positive to see the league working to put together creative solutions so we can get hockey back.