NOTE: Our man @CheesyBruin is getting his cancer removed today. Please keep him in your thoughts.
NEW YORK, NY – As we near three months since the last time professional sports were played in the US, we are beginning to see some hope for their return this summer. A few of the leagues have proposed different formats and condensed schedules to get back to action. Some proposals are closer to reality than others.
The NHL released their proposal earlier this week which would see the cancellation of the remainder of the regular season and a 24-team playoff format. The plan has already been approved by the NHL League of Governors and the Players’ Association. The proposal would have teams resuming hockey activities in small groups at training facilities in June.
Training camps would open up sometime in mid-July and the expanded playoff format would start sometime after that. The top twelve teams in each conference would meet in two hub cities to compete. The top four teams in each conference would play a round-robin to determine seeding. the bottom 8 teams would compete in a best-of-five qualifying round. The winners of that round would play against the top four seeds in the Stanley Cup Playoff format. The losers of the qualifying round would be entered into the draft lottery.
This format is good news for the New York Rangers, who were out of the playoffs when play was halted in March. The Blueshirts had been playing well though, and were only a couple of points out of the Wild Card in the Eastern Conference. The proposed playoff format rewards teams on the bubble like the Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, by giving them a chance in the qualifying round.
While there are still a lot of details to iron out, it appears that the NHL is close to a way forward to resume the season. The same cannot be said of Major League Baseball after the Owners’ ham-fisted proposal that Buddy Diaz touched on yesterday. The proposal would give the highest paid players a quarter (or less in a lot of cases) of their salary for a half season of play and was dead on arrival.
Whatever the owners’ true plan was in releasing this proposal surely backfired. If they were looking to turn the fans, many of whom have been put out of work by this pandemic, against the players, they didn’t. If they were looking to divide the players union by turning moderates against hard-liners, they didn’t.
The players will make a counter offer to play more games and get their salaries prorated for the number of games, but judging by how far apart the league and the players are, I don’t see a resolution coming quickly. Some have already written off the season after the league’s initial offer.
Like the NHL, the NBA is looking to resume activities soon to finish the current season. Their proposal would see training camps return in July with the remainder of the season played at Disney World. There are a lot of specifics and logistics to work out if they are planning to have the entire league in one place.
The format for the return hasn’t been ironed out either. There are several options from resuming the regular season to starting the playoffs with a different format where two teams from the same conference could meet in the finals.
Of all the leagues, the NHL seems closest to a return. But that return still faces significant hurdles. All of the leagues are trying to return as fast as possible and in the safest way possible. Hopefully we have a return to action soon, but don’t get your hopes up too fast.