The NHL and NHLPA are “making progress” on a plan that would allow the 2019–20 season to resume with a 24-team format, according to The Athletic‘s Pierre LeBrun.
The Return to Play committee, formed of individuals from the league and players’ union, reportedly talked throughout the weekend on next steps with a focus on a 24-team format. While there is “more work to do” in determining details, both sides are seemingly closer to agreeing upon what a resumed season would entail.
If approved, the 24-team format would not jump straight to the postseason as players have pushed for regular-season games to take place in any return to play plan, per LeBrun. The schedule would reportedly involve “games in some form” before playoff games begin, with locations not yet specified.
According to LeBrun, not all NHL players are interested in finishing the season, citing health and safety risks, but there seems to be enough motivation among the 24 teams to crown a champion. If a format is agreed upon by the Return to Play committee, the 31 player reps on the NHLPA’s executive board would need to vote to determine if it goes into effect.
Further discussion on the committee is reportedly expected within the coming days as the plan is not yet “100 percent” agreed upon. The NHL has a Board of Governors meeting scheduled for Monday, May 18 at 3 p.m., but it is not likely that commissioner Gary Bettman would make an announcement on the plan in its current state.
Bettman has stated that he is not “even contemplating” canceling the 2019–20 season. The league is still determining a timeline to move ahead to “Phase 2” of its Return to Play process and open team facilities for small group workouts. A decision on the NHL draft is reportedly expected in the upcoming week.