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JONES: New Stanley Cup playoff concept taking shape – Edmonton Sun

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There are those who contend there is not a more difficult trophy to win in all of professional team sports than hockey’s Stanley Cup.

But now there may be a tougher one than being the survivor of the annual marathon involving four best-of-seven series, often featuring games going two and three overtime periods with off-the-charts physical combat.

That would be the NHL’s 2020 COVID Cup.

O.K., there wouldn’t be the exhausting travel of 2-2-1-1-1 playoff series this year with two hub cities featuring 12 teams each, playing host to all of the games.

But otherwise …

Think about the concept Connor McDavid and the ‘Return To Play’ committee put in front of the 31 NHL team player reps for conference-call voting that looks to be accepted.

There would be no further regular-season play to determine the 16 teams advancing to the playoffs, as previously proposed.

Instead, the playoffs would be expanded from 16 to 24 teams featuring eight proposed best-of-five play-in series to advance to the traditional bet-of-sevens.

For all six Canadian teams involved, that would require winning 19 playoff games instead of 16.

If this format is adopted for these playoffs to begin, there will be a huge focus on two play-in series, in particular.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Edmonton Oilers would be meeting one-percent-chance-to-make-the-playoff entities such as Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks, respectively.

Forget those actual series. Think of the build-up to get to them.

What we’re going to be dealing with here is the longest advance analysis to each of those series in Stanley Cup playoff history.

Normally, the match-ups aren’t set until the final weekend of regular-season play. But now, the fans and media will have maybe 45 days to analyze the living bleep out of it.

You have 14-day quarantine periods in many NHL cities for players arriving from other nations, a period of a week or so to begin four- or five-player groupings to begin skating again and three-week training camps.

The NHL is going to need to have these series going by July 23. That’s the day the opening ceremonies were scheduled for the Tokyo Olympics and this will be the primary replacement programming for Olympic Games TV rights holder NBC.

So, I guess the first thing you should know is these best-of-fives all look like toss ups.

The home team in the Edmonton-Chicago games won all three. The Blackhawks won 4-3 and 3-1 in Chicago and lost 5-3 in Edmonton. The Penguins won 4-1 and 3-2 and lost 4-1 to Montreal. The Maple Leafs split with the Blue Jackets, winning 4-1 and 8-6 and losing 6-3 and 4-3 in overtime, while the Canucks lost two of three against the Wild, winning 4-1 and losing 4-2 and 4-3 in OT. The Jets and Flames only met once all season, a 2-1 OT win for Winnipeg. Two other scheduled games were lost to the shutdown.

But, as I suggest, there’s plenty of time for all of that.

What fascinates me most right now is the hub-city concept, especially if Edmonton wins the bid.

You could make the case that without atmosphere and the intensity of fans and some of the conditions likely involved, maybe the COVID Cup might be the opposite of how I project it. Maybe it’ll just be one big friendly TV show.

First of all, the players are going to have to promise not to spit, scrum after whistles, provide face-washes – not to mention face-licking by Boston’s Brad Marchand – or hug each other and the like when they score goals.

Spitting Chicklets would almost certainly be prohibited.

Now all 12 teams might be living in the same five-star J.W. Marriott across the pedway from Rogers Place.

With two NHL hub cities and not including the Stanley Cup Final itself, each hub would play host to a minimum of 46 games and maximum of 68. The hope would be to do it in 60 days. So they’d be seeing a lot of each other.

Maybe you’d need referees to ride the elevators.

There’s talk the Oilers are getting creative in attempting to win the bid by securing a golf course, like maybe the nearby Royal Mayfair to provide tee times for teams on their off-days. On the first tee, the McDavid foursome. On deck, the Kane foursome?

There’s also talk of turning the newly created Ice District over to the players so they can sit outside on a perfect Alberta evening and watch the other games on big screen video boards and engage in other activities.

Hey, with only 50 active cases remaining in Edmonton, there’s no reason to lock the teams up and force them to sit in their rooms and play solitaire all day, especially if they sweep a series and have a week to wait before starting the next one.

You have to wonder what the new normal level of legendary Stanley Cup hatred would be?

E-mail: tjones@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @ByTerryJones

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Stanley Cup Playoffs to be best-of-7 following Qualifying Round – NHL.com

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All series in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be best-of-7 and will be set based on seeding, the NHL announced Thursday.

When the NHL on May 26 announced its Return to Play Plan, which involves 24 teams in competition for the Stanley Cup, it said the length of the first-round and second-round series would be determined.

“Everybody is used to a best-of-7,” Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang told The Associated Press. “You know how it’s structured. You know how it feels if you lose the first two or you win the first two. You kind of know all the scenarios that can go through a best-of-7.”

The tournament will begin with a 16-team, eight-series Qualifying Round (best-of-5) and a Seeding Round Robin among the top four teams in each conference to determine seeds for the playoffs.

 

[RELATED: Return to Play planEastern Conference matchupsWestern Conference matchups]

 

In each round of the playoffs, the highest remaining seed in each conference will play the lowest remaining seed in that conference, the second-highest remaining seed will play the second-lowest remaining seed, and so forth. It will not be predetermined by a set bracket, the format that had been used since 2013-14.

Ties during the round-robin will be broken by regular-season points percentage. The seeding order for these top four teams will remain the same throughout the playoffs.

In the qualifying round, the higher-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2 and 5. The lower-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 3 and 4.

During the first round, second round and conference finals, the higher-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. The lower-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 3, 4 and 6.

In the Stanley Cup Final, the team with the higher regular-season points percentage will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. The team with the lower regular-season points percentage will be designated as the home team in Games 3, 4 and 6.

“Any team that is going to win five rounds, four rounds of best-of-7 … I think it will be a very worthy Stanley Cup champion and they’ll be as worthy as any team or players that won it before them,” Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said.

The NHL paused the regular season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and said the remaining 189 games would not be completed. The 12 qualifying teams from the Eastern and Western conferences were determined by points percentage as of that date. Seven teams did not qualify.

The qualifying round and round-robin will be held at two hub cities to be identified, one for the 12 participating Eastern Conference teams and one for the 12 Western Conference teams, and begin at a date to be determined.

In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers each will have a bye and play each other once in the round-robin to determine the order of the top four seeds for the first round of the playoffs.

The four Eastern Conference Qualifying Round series will be the Penguins against the Montreal Canadiens, the Carolina Hurricanes against the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders against the Florida Panthers, and the Maple Leafs against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars each will have a bye and play in the round-robin to determine their seeding order.

The four Western Conference Qualifying Round series will be the Edmonton Oilers against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators against the Arizona Coyotes, the Vancouver Canucks against the Minnesota Wild, and the Calgary Flames against the Winnipeg Jets.

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NBA approves 22-team return – TSN

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The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, another major step toward getting teams back onto the court and playing games again.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields. The National Basketball Players Association has a call on Friday to approve the plan as well.

Thursday’s vote was the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through — including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and the calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.”

Meanwhile, a person speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the NBPA and the NBA are continuing to work on a “lengthy” medical protocols document. The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.

The NBA also said it is planning to have the draft lottery Aug. 25, the draft on Oct. 15 and start next season on Dec. 1.

If all 22 teams that are going to Disney next month play their allotted eight games before the post-season begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular season games would be cancelled, which could cost players around $600 million in salary.

Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn’t qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.

But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilizing a best-of-seven format.

Teams will likely arrive at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or “preseason” games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.

Thursday’s move by the board of governors — one that came, coincidentally, on the same day this season’s NBA Finals would have started if these were normal times — was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.

The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a post-season berth.

Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs — Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston — have post-season spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.

That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.

If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No. 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the post-season.

Thursday’s decision also means that the seasons for Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix — who still have chances of getting into the playoffs this season.

And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career — the longest in league history.

Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, is retiring. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Report: NBA’s Board of Governors approves 22-team return-to-play format – Sportsnet.ca

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The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, another major step toward getting teams back onto the court and playing games again.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields. The National Basketball Players Association has a call on Friday to approve the plan as well.

Thursday’s vote was the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through — including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and the calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.”

Meanwhile, a person speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the NBPA and the NBA are continuing to work on a “lengthy” medical protocols document. The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.

The NBA also said it is planning to have the draft lottery Aug. 25, the draft on Oct. 15 and start next season on Dec. 1.

If all 22 teams that are going to Disney next month play their allotted eight games before the post-season begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular season games would be cancelled, which could cost players around $600 million in salary.

Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn’t qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.

But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilizing a best-of-seven format.

Teams will likely arrive at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or “preseason” games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.

Thursday’s move by the board of governors — one that came, coincidentally, on the same day this season’s NBA Finals would have started if these were normal times — was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.

The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a post-season berth.

Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs — Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston — have post-season spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.

That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.

If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No. 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the post-season.

Thursday’s decision also means that the seasons for Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix — who still have chances of getting into the playoffs this season.

And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career — the longest in league history.

Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, is retiring. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list.

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