As the NHL turns its attention to a return to play that would feature 24 teams playing in two hub cities in an effort to determine a Stanley Cup champion, the league does not think one positive COVID-19 test would shut down the efforts.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly revealed as much Tuesday, saying the league will follow the advice of medical personnel if one of the players does test positive.
"Our medical advisors [believe] that a single positive test, depending on the circumstance, should not necessarily shut the whole operation down," Daly said, per Greg Wyshynski of ESPN. "Obviously we can't be in a situation where we have an outbreak that will affect our ability to play. But a single positive test, throughout a two-month tournament, should not necessarily mean an end for the tournament."
This comes after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters the 2019-20 regular season is considered complete and the league will shift to a modified playoff format featuring 24 teams with no training camps scheduled to start before July 1.
Chris Bengel and Gabriel Fernandez of CBS Sports shared details of the league's plan that does not include a set start date but does feature Phase 2 expected in June and Phase 3 expected in July. Phase 3 will include training camps, while Phase 2 will feature players returning to their teams' cities and beginning to practice in limited formats.
Phase 4 will be the return of actual games with a COVID-19 testing system in place and games taking place in two hub cities that will be announced in the future.
The NHL is considering Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver as its hub cities and will limit teams to 50 personnel wherever they end up playing.
Matthew DeFranks of the Dallas Morning News provided a look at what the modified bracket would look like if the plan unfolds accordingly:
The seeding was determined based on points percentage that teams earned in the games they played before the season was suspended. The top four seeds in each conference would compete in a round-robin tournament for seeding while the Nos. 5-12 seeds would face off in series to qualify for what would then be the 16-team playoff.
Bettman said the league has not decided if the bracket will be reseeded following those initial series or follow a traditional format.
The first round of the playoffs would be best-of-five series, while the second round, conference finals and Stanley Cup Final would be best-of-seven.