Yesterday, Gary Bettman unveiled the return to play format for the NHL. Some of the details had been leaked, like the 24 team playoff format and the convoluted draft lottery, but where and when still hadn’t been discussed.
As for the where, the idea of hub cities had been discussed for a while, and the league will decide on two cities from a list of 12 qualifying cities. Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Chicago are the only cities remotely close to New York, which makes sense. The decision will be based on a bunch of common sense factors like testing and government regulations. The big thing here is that each team can only travel with 50 personnel (players, coaches, staff).
The timing and the when is still very much up in the air. There is “a chance” that training camps open in mid-July and that the qualifying and first two rounds can be completed “in a month,” with the qualifying round –Rangers vs. Carolina included– to be a best-of-five series, which is about ten days max. The first and second rounds –length of round TBD– will likely take just as long. So that checks out, but barely, and assumes best-of-five series.
Planning things out, assuming it all goes to plan, with an assumed July 1 start date for camps. Camp and a tune up game or two will take two weeks. Assuming the above paragraph holds, we will be looking at conference finals in mid August, probably taking two weeks. The Cup Finals begin in September, again lasting two weeks.
I’d venture a guess that offseason activities would be condensed to eight weeks, and the 2021-2022 season would have training camps open in November and a mid December start date. Although I can see the NHL possibly using the Winter Classic as the season opener.
Of course, all of this is subject to change. A second wave, a vaccine, a medical treatment, or an alien invasion can all alter these plans. Until then, there’s two full months of prep for the Rangers/Hurricanes matchup in July/August.