On Friday the NHL Owners and the NHLPA agreed on a 24 team playoff format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. While this gets us closer to hockey, in reality, it was the worst of our worries as there was hardly any chance of it being voted down, and it is by far the easiest of obstacles that the league will face in its pursuit to finding a Stanley Cup Champion for this season.
What still needs to happen?
There are still many of things that need to happen before hockey is back. Locations (teams and states are wiling to host but locations must be safe for all people involved), travel visas, COVID-19 testing and contract legalities, are just a few of the issues that are at hand. The biggest of those issues will be the COVID-19 testing. The league will first need a high number of tests for all of this to happen. Players, coaches, staff members and some NHL employees will have to be tested. Not to mention the fact that all of those people mentioned will probably be tested a number of times throughout the playoffs. Then the issues of somebody testing positive comes up. What happens then? Can the rest of the team still play? Are they disqualified from the tournament? These are all issues that the league still needs to figure out.
The second and arguably the largest hurdle that the league will have to find a way around is traveling. Most players are back at home in cities or countries that are not the same city that they play for. For instance, there are a lot of players currently in Europe. All of those players would have to find a way to get back to the United States and or Canada. One of the biggest issues with that is the fact that most travel visas for NHL players expire on June 30th. Recent rumors don't even have the playoffs starting until July. So not only would the players need new travel visas, they would then have to get around any sort of travel ban.
The issue with playing later in the summer is that by then, players who are in the last year of their contracts this season will technically have expired contracts by the time play starts. I'm sure this won't be as much of an issue as players could just sign new contracts that expire only a month or so later to give them enough time to play out the remainder of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Regardless, it will take time to agree on contract terms and for contracts to be written up.
Light at the end of the tunnel, but still a long tunnel
The agreement to the 24 team playoff format was the start of a long journey for hockey and its fans. It was the fastest and easiest of obstacles that the league and its players will have to get over in order to get back to hockey. We are well on our way, but there is still time and many things that could potentially stop us from finishing out the 2019-2020 season.
Credit to discount99.us/NHL for the featured image.