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Wake With Elias- May 24, 2020: NHLPA votes for 24 team playoff. Now what?

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The Players Union gave the approval to the league’s proposal of a 24 team post season tournament. There’s so much more that needs to be worked out before they can actually drop the puck, however.

Minnesota Wild v Vancouver Canucks

On Friday the NHLPA polled its team player representatives about the NHL’s proposal to restart the league by ending the regular season and bringing in a 24 team format for the post season. The motion was approved, with just Carolina and Tampa voting against it. So hockey’s back, right? Not quite. Let’s break down some of what has to get figured out for this to go ahead.

One hurdle has already been overcome, in that the US Dept of Homeland Security has put out an order allowing athletes from foreign countries to enter the United States. This means that in combination with Canada not re-opening the border, and not putting a similar order in place, that the hopes of Vancouver or Edmonton being chosen as a hub city are pretty much over, and it looks like there’s going to be just two hubs, the most likely cities being Las Vegas and Columbus (though Vegas depends on what happens with the NBA, as it is also looking at using the city as a hub for the league’s Western Conference.

Probably the biggest stumbling block here is player safety. There will have to be testing, and rules concerning quarantine if there are positive tests. There’s also what steps will be taken to minimize risks for transmission in game play, and that’s where it gets tricky. There have been discussions of using face shields, and the banning of spitting, post-whistle scrums and fighting, and even what to do about social distancing with coaches. A quick tour through Twitter shows a number of people balking at the idea of taking fighting out of the game, even in this scenario. It’s not exactly a shock that they think this way, but there’s definitely going to have to be some areas where the well being of the players takes precedent, and that seems like an easy enough place to start from.

And then there’s what to do with the seven teams who missed the cut. There’s still no plan in place on how to handle the draft lottery or how free agency will be approached. These will have to be sorted out, in order for next season to be set in motion, whether this playoff plan happens or not, so expect to hear some developments on this soon.

It still feels as though this is being done with the same “we’ve got to get the economy open!” urgency and mindset, that seems to be ignoring or at the very least discounting the science of what can and will happen, and that’s not a good thing. This also seems like not a good thing, if it’s true:

So, the bottom line is the players support the format. There’s still mountains to be moved in terms of safety, financial compensation, etc. And even with the positive move forward, I still cannot escape the feeling this is a huge mistake, and it’s not going to end well. Will I be happy if hockey returns? Somewhat. But it really, really shouldn’t, until there’s some kind of a safety net that comes from having a vaccine, so we don’t have to be writing about the players that died to make this attempt at salvaging a season happen.