The 2020 NHL Playoffs Are Coming to Edmonton!
As we learned on May 26th, the NHL has approved a return-to-play format that includes 24 teams playing in 2 “hub cities.”
The format will see 16 teams participating in a preliminary 5-game “Play-In” round, to determine who will move on to the Conference Quarterfinals to face the league’s top 8 teams (Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Colorado, Las Vegas, Dallas). These top 8 teams will concurrently play in conference round-robins to determine seeding vs the winners of the play-in round.
Photo via NHL.com
Photo via NHL.com
As a result, the Edmonton Oilers will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the play-in round, with the winner moving on the face the Dallas Stars, St Louis Blue, Colorado Avalanche, or Vegas Golden Knights (depending on the results of the round robin.)
We've known about the possible 24 team format for sometime, but what has just been officially confirmed is which two cities would play host to the Playoffs.
The NHL initially outlined 10 potential cities (including Edmonton), which they believed could host a tournament style format, such as the 2020 NHL Playoffs. Gradually, the list was shortened to 6, with Vancouver and Las Vegas seemingly being the frontrunners.
However, a last-minute B.C. Public Health hurdle proved insurmountable for Vancouver to host games and the Canucks confirmed that the city was no longer in the running. Almost just as suddenly, TSN’s Bob McKenzie leaked a report on Wednesday, July 1st suggesting that Las Vegas, too, was no longer in the running, presumably due to a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases in the state of Nevada.
Along with the news of the elimination of the Vegas bid, McKenzie announced, unofficially, that a final hub city decision had been reached by the NHL.
Edmonton and Toronto will be the two host cities of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he reported.
What’s even more exciting, is the league's decision to host both the Stanley Cup Finals, as well as the Eastern and Western Conference Finals exclusively in Edmonton. This means that while Toronto will play host to a Play-In round and 2 Playoff rounds, Edmonton will play host to a Play-In round and 4 Playoff rounds and will see the coveted Stanley Cup presented in the City of Champions.
With Edmonton and Toronto being chosen as the two NHL Hub cities, the question most often asked now is, which of the two will play host to the Stanley Cup final and Conference finals?— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 2, 2020
The answer, apparently, is Edmonton.
What lead to the decision for the NHL Playoffs to come to Edmonton?
Right from the beginning, the City of Edmonton and Province of Alberta made it clear that they were gunning for the opportunity to host games at Rogers Place.
On May 19th, Mayor Don Iveson wrote (and publically shared) a letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, expressing his support for the NHL coming to Edmonton for the resumption of the 2020 NHL season.
I'm thrilled to lend my support for the #Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) bid to be a host/hub city for the @NHL's resumption of play for the 2019-20 season. We hope the NHL will consider bringing back hockey to one of Canada's great hockey cities! #Edmonton #OilCountry #yegcc pic.twitter.com/fqkQBPS8VW— Don Iveson (@doniveson) May 19, 2020
A day later, on May 20th, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney endorsed the hub city bid as well, promoting Edmonton’s world class hockey facilities and low COVID-19 numbers.
With the NHL season shortened due to COVID-19, I think it would be pretty great to host the remainder of the season and playoffs in Oil Country.— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) May 20, 2020
The @EdmontonOilers have a world-class arena, in a city with very low COVID case counts, where the heart of hockey beats strong. #yeg pic.twitter.com/gGmDea4Q6d
Edmonton’s proposal to the NHL reportedly included an appealing “lifestyle plan” for players, which would include available activities such as outdoor movie screens, a secured golf course, catering from Edmonton’s best restaurants and an overall “Olympic village” type of feel for the players and team staff.
As per the NHL's announcement, each NHL team will be permitted to bring a maximum of 52 individuals into the Secure Zones in the hub cities, including a maximum of 31 players. The Secure Zone in Edmonton is confirmed to include the JW Marriot and Sutton Place Hotels, Terwillegar Arena, and Rogers Place.
All team players and personnel will live inside this Secure Zone and will be tested daily for COVID-19, including daily temperature checks and symptom screenings.
As well, any individuals who might have direct or indirect contact with NHL teams—i.e. hotel staff, arena staff, media—will be tested daily. Any person inside the Secure Zone who tests positive will immediately be isolated.
Will fans be allowed to attend games later on in the Playoffs?
While the NHL has not come out with any statement or plan regarding the return of fans, however limited, during the Playoffs, we can pretty much draw a conclusion on this one: no.
If the pandemic were to miraculously subside to a level where fans could safely attend games in arenas, there would still be one big issue.
The Oilers and Maple Leafs would have a completely unfair advantage, by being the host cities. Imagine, under normal, “pandemic-free” circumstances such as previous year’s NHL Playoffs, if a team were able to play games exclusively in their own city, beneath their own fans. It would provide an entirely unfair advantage.
Though, we would love to see an Oilers vs. Leafs Stanley Cup Finals.
When Will the Stanley Cup be Awarded?
The Stanley Cup Playoffs typically take about 2 months to complete.
For the 2020 Playoffs, we will have to factor in the best of 5 Play-In round and the Round Robin, which is slated to begin on August 1st.
The 1st round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin on August 11th.
The 2nd round, August 25th.
The Conference Finals, September 8th.
And finally, the Cup Finals on September 22nd.
The Stanley Cup will be awarded no later than October 4th, the 2020 NHL Draft is slated for October 9-10th, and the 2020-21 season is scheduled to begin on December 1st.
Gear up for the 2020 NHL Playoffs!
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