The NHL sent an updated memo to its players on Monday, allowing them to travel to their respective offseason homes and self-isolate themselves there until at least March 27 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the CDC's directive of cancelling in-person events involving 50 or more people for the next 60 days, hockey's hiatus could last until May.
The NHL was careful of its wording when it announced hockey would be put on hold, using the word "paused" instead of "suspended." Although nothing is guaranteed at this point, the goal remains to complete the regular season and crown a Stanley Cup champion.
But because this situation is unprecedented, the league is open to anything and everything regarding what things could look like if hockey does resume play. And that includes a temporary revamp of the playoff format.
One option the NHL is reportedly considering is a potential 24-team postseason of some sort. TSN's Darren Dreger doubled down on the report Monday morning, saying one team believes this is a "strong option."
The financial implications are, no doubt, playing a large role in every scenario that's being discussed internally and rightfully so. Including 12 teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference would mean the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Blackhawks would all qualify based on their current positions in the standings, and those are three of the league's biggest revenue-generating markets.
It's too early to start speculating on the possible framework of a 24-team playoff bracket given how quickly the landscape is changing, but it certainly would be an interesting idea.
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