NHL announces return to play and lottery plans

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a return to play plan for the NHL, in addition to clarification on the draft lottery.

The NHL is the first of the four major North American sports leagues to put forth a concrete plan to jump-start the season after COVID-19 halted all major sports Mar. 12. 

The plan concludes the 2019-20 regular season. 24 teams will resume play, with the top 12 in each conference based off of points percentage. The remaining seven teams will automatically enter the draft lottery. 

Each conference will be assigned a hub city that will provide secure arenas and hotels for players and staff. Each team will be limited to 50 personnel in the hub city along with a small number of support staff that will be permitted in event areas. Hub city locations will be determined at a later date.

Hub cities under consideration:

Chicago, Illinois

Columbus, Ohio

Dallas, Texas

Edmonton, Alberta

Las Vegas, Nevada

Los Angeles, California

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Toronto, Ontario

Vancouver, British Columbia

The return to play plan will be cut into four different phases, with phase one concluding (self-quarantine) and phase two beginning in early June. In phase two, clubs will return to home facilities for voluntary group ice and off-ice training. 

Phase three will begin no earlier than July 1 and will serve as a formal training camp for teams. 

Phase four will begin when clubs travel to their respective hub cities and begin postseason rounds. Rounds will be split up by qualifying rounds for non-top-four teams and a round-robin tournament by the top-four teams in each conference. The qualifying rounds will be a best-of-five series. The winner of each qualifying round will advance to the first round where they will face one of the four teams determined by the round robin tournament results. The format and series length for the first and second rounds is yet to be determined. The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final, however, will be best-of-seven. Here are the qualifying matchups and round robin teams. 

The 2020 NHL Draft Lottery will also be conducted in phases. The first phase will be conducted Jun. 26 and will occur before the qualifying round. The first draw will determine first-overall pick, the second draw will determine second-overall pick and third draw will determine third-overall pick. If a draw is won by a non-resuming club, it will receive the pick. If a draw is won by a resuming club, then there will be concurring phases that will be conducted. The selections will consist of the seven teams that do not return to play and eight “place-holders” to represent to-be-determined qualifying round teams. 

Here is a detailed break-down of lottery specifics. 

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