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NHL commissioner announces return-to-play plan for 2019-20 season

Season is over; 24 teams will be in playoffs

FILE - In this May 27, 2019, file photo, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media before Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins in Boston. The most aggressive timetable, a person familiar with discussions told The Associated Press, would have players returning to their home rinks as early as May 15, followed by a training camp and possible exhibition games in June. Bettman emphasized no decisions have been made and cautioned government and medical officials will ultimately make the call on when sports can return. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - In this May 27, 2019, file photo, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media before Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins in Boston. The most aggressive timetable, a person familiar with discussions told The Associated Press, would have players returning to their home rinks as early as May 15, followed by a training camp and possible exhibition games in June. Bettman emphasized no decisions have been made and cautioned government and medical officials will ultimately make the call on when sports can return. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a return-to-play plan for the NHL on Tuesday.

The league has been on pause due to the pandemic since March 12. Teams had about 10-12 games left to play, depending on the team.

Bettman announced the season is officially over but the playoffs will continue with 24 teams. The top four teams in each conference will claim automatic berths in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They will play intraconference round robins to determine their seeds in the first round. Each will play each other. These games will be played with regular season play and overtime/shootout rules. Ties in the finals standings will be broken by regular season points percentage.

The remaining 8 teams in each conference will play in a best-of-five qualifying round series to determine which of the four from each conference advance to the first round of the playoffs. Matchups will be based on regular season points percentage that teams had when the league paused. These games will be played with playoff overtime rules.

Conference-based playoffs will then be played. The league is still deciding how these first-round matchups will be seeded. Bettman did say each of the top four teams of each conference will face one of the play-in teams.

Games will be played at two hub cities to be announced at a later date.

Clubs will be allowed to return to practice facilities in early June. Formal training camps will follow at a date that Bettman says will need to be determined by medical experts.

The NHL/NHLPA Return to Play Committee had been working on the details of what the game will look like if it’s allowed to return this summer. The union’s executive board approved further negotiations on the 24-team format this past Friday.

Read more: NHL plans move to small-group training as Phase 2 of return

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