Gary Bettman Details NHL's Return-to-Play Plan Including 24 Teams, 2 Hub Cities

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 26, 2020

FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2012, file photo, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman listens as he meets with reporters after a meeting with team owners in New York. The National Hockey Leage Players' Association announces its decision whether to terminate the current collective bargaining agreement and set the clock ticking toward another potential work stoppage in 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league's return-to-play plan Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters, Bettman confirmed the regular season has been deemed complete and only 24 teams will return to action in a modified playoff format, with no training camps to start before July 1.

Bettman noted the return plan designates two cities as central hubs for the postseason. Teams will only be allowed to have a maximum of 50 people in a hub city.

With the current regular-season standings used for the postseason, here is what the bracket will look like when play resumes:

On Friday, the NHL Players' Association announced its executive board approved a plan for a 24-team playoff format should the 2019-20 season resume.

In that plan, the top four teams in each conference receive first-round byes, and teams seeded fifth through 12th play a best-of-five series to qualify for the usual 16-team postseason. The players haven't formally voted to restart the season.

Bettman said the NHL's Return to Play committee is still deciding if the first two rounds of the 16-team postseason will be a best-of-five or best-of-seven series.

Bettman told reporters last week the league is looking into "probably eight or nine different places" that would be able to accommodate "a dozen or so teams in one location."

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The NHL has been on hiatus since March 12, when the regular season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.