Everything you need to know about the NHL restart

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July 28th, 2020

Under normal circumstances, now would be the time for NHL players to ramp up their offseason workouts in preparation for the upcoming season that would typically begin the first week of October. 

These are certainly not normal times.

Like every major professional sports league across the globe, the NHL was forced to put its season on hold in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Almost a full five months after the league suspended its season — and after it negotiated an extension of the collective-bargaining agreement, mid-summer training camps, and a handful of exhibition games to bring players up to speed — the NHL will resume its campaign with a unique race for the Stanley Cup, beginning Saturday. 

Here is everything you need to know about the NHL’s restart plan. 

How many teams will take part?

There will be 24 teams vying for the Stanley Cup when the NHL resumes play. 

The NHL announced its plans for a restart in the spring, which effectively ended the regular season, despite about three weeks remaining on the schedule when play was suspended. Typically, 16 teams qualify for the playoffs — eight teams from the Western Conference and eight teams from the Eastern Conference. 

This year, however, the league decided it would include eight additional teams in its restart format. 

The new playoff format

The NHL’s new format will feature eight teams competing in a round robin to determine seeding for the first round of the playoffs. The round robin features the top four teams from the Western Conference and top four teams from the Eastern Conference, based on points percentage when the season ended. 

Those Western Conference teams in the round robin are the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars. In the East, the four teams in the round robin are the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers.

The other 16 teams will compete in a play-in round, featuring eight best-of-five series — four within each conference. The winners of those series will advance into the first round of the playoffs. 

Beginning in the first round of the playoffs, each series will be determined by the traditional best-of-seven format. The playoff format will include the first and second rounds, followed by the Conference Finals and then the Stanley Cup Final. 

Where can I place bets for the NHL playoffs?

BetAmerica is currently offering a wide variety of markets for upcoming NHL games, including for both the play-in round, and round robin games. With this format, there will be a full slate of NHL games throughout the day. On Saturday, action gets underway with the New York Rangers facing the Carolina Hurricanes at noon ET, and wraps up with the Winnipeg Jets facing the Calgary Flames at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Expanded rosters allowed for NHL teams

The NHL is allowing teams to travel with a maximum of 52 club personnel, including a maximum roster of 31 players, into the bubble. Roster limits allow teams to dress 20 players, including two goalies, for each game. Teams are allowed a 23-player active roster during the regular season. 

Where are games taking place?

After weeks of speculation and planning, it was determined that two Canadian cities, Edmonton and Toronto, will act as hub cities for the NHL’s restart. 

Edmonton will host the Western Conference teams at Rogers Place, while Toronto will host the Eastern Conference teams at Air Canada Centre. 

According to reports, the Stanley Cup Finals will take place in Edmonton, beginning Sept. 22.

No fans in attendance

No fans are permitted to attend games, which has become standard practice for sports leagues in the age of COVID-19.

Teams that are declared the home team games will have the advantage of being able to set matchups, but any impact from a boisterous, intense crowd will be nullified.

When will the 2020-2021 season begin?

According to the NHL Players Association, the Stanley Cup Finals will begin on Sept. 22, and the last possible date for a Game 7 will be Oct. 4, which is usually the time the new regular season would be getting underway. 

The 2020 offseason will be pushed back as a result. According to NBC Sports, the NHL Draft will take place Oct. 9-10 (it is usually at the end of June) and free agency, which usually begins July 1, will take place in the middle of October. 

The 2020-2021 season is expected to begin Dec. 1. In the midst of a pandemic, however, plans may need to be altered. 

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