Commissioner Bettman: 24-team playoffs if NHL is able to resume

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FILE – In this Feb. 17, 2019, file photo, New Jersey Devils right wing Kurtis Gabriel works out prior to an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres in Newark, N.J. The NHL is hoping to move to Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol, including the opening of practice facilities and allowing small group workouts, early next month. The league, which was forced to pause its season on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, released a 22-page memo detailing the plan Monday, May 25, 2020. The document stresses there’s no exact date for the start of Phase 2 or a timetable for how long it will last. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

NHL Commmissioner Gary Bettman has announced the league is moving ahead with a 24-team expanded playoff format if it’s able to resume play and award the Stanley Cup.

The plan was approved by the NHL’s board of governors, and comes days after the NHL Players’ Association’s executive committee gave the plan a green light.

Bettman stresses the plan’s approval doesn’t guarantee the resumption of games. The league and players must still determine safety protocols and solve other issues, including where to play.

Under the expanded format, the top four teams in each conference will play for seeding while the other 16 face off in a best-of-five series. The league has been shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In going ahead with the top 12 teams in each conference, the decision officially ends the seasons of the league’s bottom seven teams. They are Anaheim, Buffalo, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Ottawa and San Jose.

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