The NHL is moving forward with its season, at least to some degree.  There are still doubts and uncertainty of when the NHL season will re-start, but some key dates have been presented for the 2020 playoffs and offseason.

The panorama is clearer now for the expected match between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, which is part of the play-in series.  However, this game, although it is still a possibility, is not guaranteed to take place.  Blame it all on the coronavirus.

The NHL Lays Out Its Schedule

Toronto and Edmonton will eventually be the host cities for NHL games, and it is expected that NHL teams will make their way to the hub cities on July 24 for the offseason re-start, playing exhibition games the next day.  The start of the qualification round will take place on July 31, and this is crucial and vital for the entire NHL league.

The first round of the playoffs is supposed to begin on Aug. 9, and, based on the fans’ preferences, the Leafs are favorites to win the game against the Blue Jackets.  After that, the second round will be held on Aug. 23, and, finally, the Conference Finals will take place on Sept. 26.

According to Frank Seravalli of TSN Sports, the first game of the Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for Sept. 20.  If a game 7 is needed, the series will conclude on Oct. 2. Edmonton is one of the two hub cities for this tournament, but the Final game will be disputed in this city no matter which team qualifies.

They are planning to play at least three games per day in each city, totaling up to six daily contests.  The schedule of the games would be at 12 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time, according to Scott King of NBC sports.

NHL Putting COVID-19 On Ice With Re-Start

NHL fans can stay positive about the possible start of the league because the number of COVID-19 positive tests has remained lower than that of Major League Soccer (MLS) and other leagues.  The NHL public relations department reported that, of more than 2900 tests, just 23 cases were positive.  This is good news for the hockey league and, if the trend remains, it is very likely that the start of the season could be a reality.

Another advantage is that the tournament will be held in Canada, not in the US, in areas where players would be less exposed to this virus.  This gives players more hope and optimism about the coming future of the season; however, it is not a guarantee that there will not be challenges to tackle.

Of course, the NHL schedule for the big re-start is not yet set in stone.  The NHL Players Association (NHLPA) has to give its approval, as do the owners of the CBA extension – all of this is required for a restart of the hockey league.  A tentative schedule has been predefined but it is subject to change. The pandemic caused havoc in all sports leagues across the US and Canada, and COVID-19 threw a huge monkey wrench in the league’s plans.  Therefore, many adjustments will be necessary to make the league a reality and restore all the financial damages and losses suffered so far.

The NHL Draft Is Now On The Schedule

In other hockey news, free agency is expected to start on Oct. 9 or 7 days after the end of the Stanley Cup final game.  They expect that the training camps will open for next season on Nov. 17, and hope that, eventually, the beginning of the 2020-21 season will take place on December 1.  But all these slated dates are subject to change if something happens or if the COVID-19 cases begin to spike.

Critics might think that the NHL is rushing things a little with these re-start dates, but this is for the welfare and stability of the league. It is true that after the Stanley Cup final game, the teams involved will not have enough time off because the training camps will start almost immediately.  Players could be exposed to undesired injuries, especially among playoff teams; however, all sports leagues want to keep things moving, and these plans are just tentative for now.