By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Nashville Predators joined 23 other teams this week as phase two of the NHL’s resumption of the season began. Monday marked the day that clubs were permitted to reopen training facilities in their home cities and allow players to participate in individual training activities, both on and off-ice. While these were listed as voluntary, given that the league’s been out of action since mid-March, when the season was suspended due to concerns over the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, once teams can get all their players back, it’s pretty much a given that everyone wants to participate. But the rules mandate that there will only be players participating in small group workouts. Only a maximum of six players can be in any setting at the same time, and the number of club personnel and staff members allowed will also be limited.
There’s also a series of protocols required for players to participate. These include diagnostic testing, physicals, and education sessions regarding the virus.
There remain a host of other things that have not yet been worked out, though the league hopes to resume play by the end of July. The two hub cities that will host the 24-team playoffs have not yet been chosen, and the matchups for the teams that received byes from the first round also have not yet been determined. The only thing that’s been set is that the first round teams will be in best-of-five series at the two sites. The Predators know for certain that they’re facing the Arizona Coyotes. All the other rounds will be best-of-seven.
After the first round, the highest remaining seed in each conference will face the lowest remaining seed, and then proceed in order with the second highest facing the second lowest, etc. The Round Robin tiebreaker between the top four conference teams will be broken. by regular season points percentage at the start. The seeding order for them will remain the same the rest of the playoffs. Although home ice won’t truly exist in the classic sense, the higher-seeded team will be designated the home team in Games 1, 2 and 5, which gives the sixth-seeded Predators a theoretical advantage. From the second round on, the higher-seeded team gets home designation in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7.
For the Stanley Cup Final, the team with the most regular season points gets designated home team in games 1, 2, 5 and 7. Once the hub cities are selected, teams will be limited to 50 personnel members, plus a sall number of support staff that will be allowed to enter the event arenas. The cities under consideration at press time were Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St Paul, and Pittsburgh in the USA, and Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.