NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made it official Tuesday. The league is planning to resume the 2019-2020 season with a 24-team playoff format and will utilize two hub cities to host games. Under the format, the Blue Jackets will meet Toronto in a best of five "qualifying round" series that will begin sometime later this summer.
"We anticipate playing over the summer and into the early fall," Bettman said during Tuesday's announcement. "At this time we are not fixing dates because the schedule of our return to play will be determined both by developing circumstances and the needs of our players."
While the timeline is unclear, the league is hopeful to have its 24 qualifying teams report to training camps in early July, which could mean the Blue Jackets/Toronto series would start later that month or perhaps early August. If the plan is able to move forward, the Stanley Cup Finals are likely to be in late September or early October. The two hub cities will be announced in three-to-four weeks. Bettman said Columbus, along with Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver are all under consideration.
"One (city) will be the site for the resuming Eastern Conference clubs and the other will play host to the resuming Western Conference clubs," Bettman said. "Each (city) will have secure arenas, practice facilities, hotels and local transportation for our players, coaches and essential staff."
Bettman also detailed plans for the NHL draft lottery, discussed safety measures and more. You can get more details by checking out his official announcement below.
On Wednesday's Joel Riley show on WTVN, we got reaction and comment on the NHL restart plan from veteran Blue Jackets reporter Aaron Portzline of The Athletic who not only discussed yesterday's announcement, but also the Blue Jackets match-up with Toronto, Columbus' hub city bid and more. Great stuff, as always from Porty. You can check it out by clicking here to go to Joel's podcast page.