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2020 NHL playoffs: Bill Daly discusses 24-team plan, hub cities, testing and more

2020 NHL playoffs: Bill Daly discusses 24-team plan, hub cities, testing and more

As the NHL announced its 24-team return-to-play model this week, excitement built around the idea of hockey coming back and the Stanley Cup Playoffs being held.

Flyers fans were smack-dab in the middle of the excitement because their team is in a promising spot among the field and was climbing when the season was suspended March 12.

Inevitably and understandably, many were left with questions, as well, following the league's releasing of its plan.

Two big ones: When can everyone expect games to start and what will it take to be able to do so?

With the current uncertain nature of the coronavirus pandemic, those questions are still in the process of being answered.

The NHL is hoping to begin Phase 2 (players returning to team practice facilities for voluntary activities) in early June. Phase 3 (mandatory team training camps) won't happen before July 10, which means the implementation of Phase 4 (resuming play) can occur at the earliest late July, with the beginning of August more likely.

What might that look like for the players and permitted personnel?

“We haven’t fully developed either our Phase 3 or our Phase 4 protocol at this point in time," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Michael Barkann. "We have some good models to work with, we have some good ideas, obviously we have our medical advisors and infectious disease specialists who will be helping us construct our Phase 4 protocol.

"But the ideal hub city is a place where there’s enough room for players to have a life, they’re not going to be sent back to their hotel rooms and stay there 24/7 when they’re not practicing and playing, but it’s going to be a contained environment and it’s going to be a secure environment. It’s going to give the players some opportunity for some entertainment and some freedom, but within a contained environment. We have some ideas on how that works, it will be interesting to see how it works, but that’s the concept."

Some of the biggest hurdles for the NHL will be finalizing the protocol for testing and the procedure for positive cases.

"In terms of what we’re hearing from our medical advisors on the possibility of a positive test, obviously everybody in this environment is going to be tested very, very frequently on a daily basis," Daly said. "The players will all be tested before they go back to their rooms at night, we’ll have those test results turned around before they leave their rooms in the morning. If we have a positive test, we’ll get the person involved the appropriate medical care, we’ll isolate them right away. We have been told by our advisors that depending on the circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean a whole team has to be quarantined, it won’t necessarily shut down the entire tournament, so we’re working on that assumption right now. Obviously if we start to get multiple positives or an outbreak type of situation, it’s an entirely different analysis. But at least now, we’re working on the assumption that one positive test doesn’t shut down the entire tournament.”

The tournament will be held in two hub cities — one for the Eastern Conference and the other for the Western Conference. Philadelphia is not an option. The cities being considered for both conferences are Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Edmonton, Alberta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Flyers practice in Voorhees, New Jersey, and were given the OK on Tuesday by Gov. Phil Murphy to return to training and even competition at the Skate Zone facility.

“At the time of when we came up with the hub city concept and started working with cities, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, they were hot spots for sure, and I think continue to be more than some of our other cities," Daly said. "That’s one of the things we evaluated and kept track of throughout this process. Before we went to opening training facilities in Phase 2, we wanted to make sure the clubs were on a relatively equal footing with respect to their ability to open their training facilities."

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Is Chris Pronger coming back to Philly for new endeavor?

Is Chris Pronger coming back to Philly for new endeavor?

He wasn’t in Philadelphia for a significant amount of time during his successful career, but Chris Pronger was widely loved by Flyers fans — and still is. 

While his career ended abruptly in the early weeks of the 2011-12 season, his time with the Flyers has always felt unfinished. 

Now, almost nine years later, could there be a possibility of Pronger joining the organization once more? 

The Hockey Hall-of-Famer posted a few clues to his Instagram account Tuesday night, implying that a “big announcement” is coming the next day. 

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Big announcement coming tomorrow! Stay tuned ...

A post shared by Chris Pronger (@thechrispronger) on

And one post wasn’t enough to contain his excitement, as he took to his Instagram story as well — now adding that it’s the “best day ever” and tagging the location as the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Flyers. 

Many have taken to the comments section under his post, giving their guesses on possible scenarios, but Pronger isn’t budging.



On July 8, Pronger announced that he stepped down from his senior vice president of hockey operations position with the Florida Panthers. He also noted that he made this decision to focus on his and his wife Lauren’s business, Well Inspired Travels — a luxury travel company that caters to elite athletes, executives and business owners. 

So, what does this recent career decision and posts mean? We’ll just have to take Pronger’s advice and “stay tuned” until tomorrow when the announcement is made. 

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NHL schedule 2020: Start times for Flyers vs. Penguins exhibition game, Flyers vs. Bruins round-robin game

NHL schedule 2020: Start times for Flyers vs. Penguins exhibition game, Flyers vs. Bruins round-robin game

Alain Vigneault and his staff have put together a detailed, science-based plan to prepare the Flyers for what could be an unprecedented run at the 2020 Stanley Cup.

They know they have about a month to work with following an abrupt stoppage that spanned four months because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"I believe it’s going to work," the Flyers' head coach said Monday about his team's plan ahead of the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

Part of the plan includes an exhibition contest. It also features three interesting round-robin games, which will dictate the Eastern Conference's top-four seeds but can serve as a tune-up of sorts, as well. During the qualifying round, the Flyers will try to improve their seeding and strategize for the first round of the playoffs, which begins Aug. 11.

We've got 30 days to get ready for our first official game on Aug. 11," Vigneault said. "Our group is excited, focused, energized — and we've been waiting a long time here to have this opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup, and we’re going to get it.

"We are going to take this time that we have in front of us here to obviously prepare the team. We’re also going to take the exhibition game and the three games that we're going to play because really, Aug. 11, our first game in the first round for the Stanley Cup Playoffs starts there. I’m going to put on the ice at that time the best lineup that we have.

We now know when and who the Flyers will play in their exhibition game: the Penguins. The NHL also released the start time for the Flyers' round-robin opener against the Bruins.

Here are the details so far, while broadcast information is to be announced on another date:

Flyers vs. Penguins, Tuesday, July 28 — 4 p.m. ET (exhibition)

Flyers vs. Bruins, Sunday, Aug. 2 — 3 p.m. ET (round robin)

Flyers vs. Capitals, Thursday, Aug. 6 — TBD (round robin)

Flyers vs. Lightning, Sunday, Aug. 9 — TBD (round robin)

For analysis on the Flyers' round-robin slate, click here. For the rest of the NHL schedule and start times, click here.

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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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