The NHL season will officially resume Aug. 1, after the league and players union each ratified the return-to-play plan and a four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement Friday.
Also made official were the two hub cities to be used for most of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: Toronto for the Eastern Conference teams and Edmonton for the Western Conference teams. The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will all take place in Edmonton, with the expectation of crowning a champion by early October.
The NHL and NHLPA announced Monday they had agreed in principle on the restart of the season and on the CBA extension, which will run through September of 2026.
Under the ratified agreement, teams will move to Phase 3 of their return to play with teams holding training camps in local markets starting Monday. Teams will travel to hub cities on July 26 and play exhibition games July 28-30. Phase 4, which encompasses competitive games, will start Aug. 1 with Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
Each hub city will host 12 teams, with a maximum of 31 players and 52 total members per organization. The top four teams in each conference will play a round robin against each other to determine seeding, while the bottom eight teams in each conference will play a best-of-five series to gain entry into the traditional 16-team tournament with best-of-seven series.
The qualifying games will take nine days to complete, with five or six games played each day and two days off for each team in between games. Games will begin with Rangers-Hurricanes, Panthers-Islanders and Canadiens-Penguins in the East and Blackhawks-Oilers and Jets-Flames in the West on Aug. 1.
The first round of the 16-team playoffs is set to begin Aug. 11, with the Stanley Cup Final set to be over by Oct. 4 at the latest.
Also announced Friday were dates for the second part of the NHL draft lottery -- Aug. 10 -- and the draft itself, tentatively set for Oct. 9-10. The lottery will determine who has the first overall pick in the draft, which will be one of the eight teams eliminated during the qualifying round.
The NHL season was stopped on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Players have been taking part in voluntary workouts at team facilities -- with extra safety precautions in place -- since last month.
--Field Level Media