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NHL Return to Play Committee closing in on an agreement to complete the 2019/20 season

If it happens your Vancouver Canucks will be one of the 24 clubs lacing their skates up.

In this photo illustration a National Hockey League (NHL)...
The National Hockey League (NHL) is planning a return to the ice during the Covid-19 crisis. Vancouver is still in the running to be a host-hub city.
Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Larry Brooks of the New York Post first reported ten days ago that the NHL Return to Play Committee had shifted its focus from completing the NHL’s regular season to arranging the details of a 24-team Stanley Cup tournament. He said the plan included byes for the top teams and a best of three play-in round for the remaining teams.

Earlier this week, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported that the Return to Play Committee met twice this week instead of its usual once per week scheduled meeting. He stated indications were that the Committee had moved on from discussing multiple theoretical concepts to determining the actual details of a plan.

Yesterday, Scott Burnside of The Athletic revealed that the Committee was working through the weekend and was still debating whether or not the resumed post-pause NHL schedule would involve 24 or 20 teams.

The good news for Vancouver Canucks’ fans is that both models under consideration includes the participation of their beloved team.

Earlier today, Pierre Lebrun reported that the Committee was closing in on an agreement for a 24-team return to play.

Some Canucks’ fans see the value in the NHL returning to the ice in a 24-team round robin concept. The final version of the tournament would likely eliminate byes for the top teams. Instead the eventual final 16 teams vying for the Stanley Cup would be determined by some sort of combination between the final regular season winning percentages of the 24 clubs at the NHL pause on March 12th with the outcomes of the round robin games.

All indications appear to suggest that the top 24 NHL teams in the overall standings at the pause on March 12th will compete in the round robin tournaments. It also appears that the 7 non-participating teams will become the Entry Draft Lottery teams.

Canucks’ Twitter has been consumed by the Judd Brackett imbroglio for the last while. But some folks have moved on to the more interesting topic of what the Canucks’ line-up might look like if the club returns to game play.

It appears that the Canucks’ Hub group would most likely include the Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Arizona Coyotes and the Minnesota Wild. The Wild would cross over from the Central Division Hub to the Pacific Division Hub. Whatever the configuration of the teams in their Hub, the Canucks would play at least five round robin games and at least a minimum of two play-in games unless they earn a bye after the round robin games are completed. If Jacob Markstrom returns with his Vezina-worthy goaltending intact, the Canucks could play well into the summer.

One thing for certain is that the arenas hosting the games will be fan-less. Sportsnet is working on various ideas to adjust their usual hockey broadcasts for the new-normal. Some of the ideas they are considering include simulated crowd noise, amping up the on-ice audio, and new camera angles.

I think most Vancouver Canucks fans would be thrilled right now to see their local heroes battling on the ice again sooner than later. For most British Columbians it would also be a welcome respite from the Covid-19 crisis, especially if Vancouver was selected by the NHL as one of its return to play hub cities.

In any event, it appears the team-of-many-colours will be hitting the ice again this summer. Soon it might be time for fans to wave their white towels in their dens and family rooms. It could turn out to be a long, hot summer inside on ice.