Sports | May 23, 2020 12:43 pm

NHL Players Union Approves Plan for 24-Team Playoffs If Season Restarts

The expanded playoffs would give the first four seeds in each conference a first-round bye

NHL coronavirus NHLPA
A goal sits on the empty ice prior to the Detroit Red Wings playing against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on March 12, 2020.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

One of the biggest hurdles for a restarted NHL season has been cleared. On Friday, the NHL Players Association executive board approved a plan by the league to expand the playoffs to 24 teams in advance of a potential restart of the 2019-2020 season.

In a statement reported by ESPN, the NHLPA acknowledged the approval, as well as noting that this is just one step in the process for bringing hockey back to the ice:

The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.

The expanded playoffs would work like this: the top four seeds in each conference would receive a bye into the second round of the playoffs, while the teams seeded from 5th to 12th would play best-of-five opening round series. After that, the playoffs would revert to the traditional 16 teams playing best-of-seven series on the way to the Stanley Cup finals.

This is not the last step towards restarting the season, however; the league and players still have to agree on a myriad of issues, including locations for the games as well as procedures for testing. The playoff format also needs to be re-approved by the league before it’s official, but as of now, the wheels are in motion to get the NHL back sooner than later.

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Read the full story at ESPN