If hockey returns it seems like it will be the end of September before the playoffs conclude

The NHL has taken some baby steps this week in getting a playoff format to the NHLPA to vote on and likely green light before the weekend is done. Beyond that, there are still a number of things the NHL needs to sort out, for example…

  • Figure out what cities they will play in
  • Work with the NHL Officials union on their involvement
  • Figure out where these players will live
  • Get these players to those cities
  • Determine a length of training camp
  • Hope like hell no one has a nagging cough
  • About a million other things mostly involving working with local, state or provincial and national governments on regulations.

Assuming all of this is sorted out in a timely manner, it still seems like it will take until the end of September to finish the playoffs.

From Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts:

My guess is we don’t see training camps before July. In addition to the playoff format, it sounds like the NHL and NHLPA are working together on adjusting the critical-dates calendar. That means contracts for players will be extended from June 30 (the normal end of each season) to whenever this year officially concludes.

The interesting thing will be contracts for coaches/executives scheduled to expire on that date. There will be the option to extend those, too, but there might be situations where a team and/or an individual would not wish to extend. Vancouver and amateur scouting director Judd Brackett would be an obvious one. There is at least one coach not extended past this season who has mused about declining to return.

Yeah, that certainly complicates things too, not to mention that if they aren’t starting training camps until July, and they’ve added an extra round of playoffs, there doesn’t seem to be any way that hockey ends before late September. Presumably making October the month where free agency, the draft, training camps, and most importantly the NHL Award show take place if they want to have a November start to the 2020-21 season and play a full schedule.

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a 82 game season and November start would fall victim to this plan, and perhaps a 48 game season with a December start becomes the realistic option.

My projected calendar for the close of 2019-20

Date Event Notes
May 22nd NHLPA votes on return to play format This assumes that everything moves quickly between the league and PA
May 23rd-May 30th League makes a decision on Hub cities There would have to be a lot of quick agreements between governments, unions, and owners here too.
May 31st-June 6th Arrangements made to locate players to Hub cities A week to let players say goodbye to their families for the foreseeable future and make plans on relocating seems tight, but to some extent this is probably already in the works.
June 7th- June 13th Travel Week Probably not as easy as it seems unless teams fly their private jets around the globe picking up players.
June 7th- June 27th 14 Day Quarantine Period Assuming you have a player arriving on June 13th from Sweden it will take until June 27th before they could even join their team.
June 28th Training Camp Opens Pretty much on target with what Elliotte Friedman said.  There might be flexibility if teams open their camps a week earlier and have remaining players who were quarantined join later in camp.
July 18th Close of 3 week training camp Three weeks is the timeframe that has been consistently rumoured, I wonder if we see this condensed, though I wouldn’t support that if I was the NHLPA as there could be a significant injury risk.
July 19th Play-in round (best of 5 begins) Huzzah! Hockey finally starts!
July 30th Last Day of Play-in round Timelines are based on teams playing every other day and a two day rotation.
August 1st Start of Conference Quarterfinals
August 15th Last day of Conference Quarterfinals
August 17th Start of Conference Semifinals
August 30th Last Day of Conference Semifinals
September 2nd Start of Conference Finals
Semptember 15th Last possible day for Conference Finals Assuming series end before seven games we might see timelines move up
Semptember 18th Last possible day for start of Stanley Cup Finals If each round has a series go seven games this is probably when see the start of the Cup Finals.
Semptember 30th Last possible day for Game 7 to be played

So there are a couple of things that aren’t accounted for in here that are certainly tricky. The first one being if there is another COVID related halt to the playoffs. Do we see a two week delay for a quarantine period before play resumes? How long will that push back hockey?

Another major hitch in the plans would be if you have teams playing on each side of the border, if there is still a two week quarantine period in place, do we see hockey halt for two weeks when the league merges into one hub city?

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None of this seems straight forward. None of these seems particularly ideal. And all of this seems to result in what will be looked upon as a lesser Stanley Cup victory and the league attempting to grab at any possible revenue recovery they can. On the other hand, it’s hockey and that’s a plus.

We’ve taken the long road to get to a very simple point, and that is if the NHL is going to try and pull this off, they’ll have to figure it on in the next week or two, because any further delay is jeopardizing the potential for a somewhat normal looking and structured 2020-21 season.