The NHL is making progress with its plans to hold a postseason this year. The league intends to make a decision on the two hub cities that will host all of the games once they start up again "within the next week or so," according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
The hub cities currently being considered to host games are Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Vancouver. There will be one hub city for Eastern Conference teams and one for the Western Conference. Canada's federal government approved an order that would allow either Vancouver, Edmonton or Toronto to serve as one of the NHL's two bases as the 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs progress through the coronavirus pandemic.
Also agreed upon at the NHL's GM meeting, according to Brooks: Training camp will last two weeks, NHL teams will travel to the respective hub city on July 23 or 24 before playing one exhibition game and the Stanley Cup tournament will begin on July 30 with qualifying rounds.
Earlier this month, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that all four playoff rounds will be best-of-seven and the play-in round will be a best-of-five. In addition, following each round, the teams will be re-seeded and won't face off in a bracketed format.
The league is set to begin Phase 3 of its return to play plan on July 10. Phase 3 includes each of the 24 teams starting training camp. Beginning Monday, NHL team general managers and coaches will be allowed to watch on-ice sessions, Brooks adds. As part of Phase 2, NHL clubs were permitted to open their training facilities on June 8, with all players required to undergo mandatory testing for COVID-19. Bettman also said that players would be tested daily if and when game action were to resume.
On Friday, Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, and a number of players on the Arizona Coyotes, who were training with Matthews, have also reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. The Matthews news comes in the wake of the Tampa Bay Lightning shutting down their facilities after multiple players and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a league press release, the length of Phase 3 and training camp has not been determined yet. As a result, the start date of Phase 4 -- which will include the return of play with clubs facing off in two undetermined hub cities -- is also not yet known.