The NHL announces a 24-team tournament to restart their season; Blackhawks qualify for the playoffs

Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL – MARCH 03: The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after defeating the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 at the United Center on March 3, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

NEW YORK – The National Hockey League has set guidelines for their return to play this summer, and this plan includes the Blackhawks.

On Tuesday, commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league will finish up their season with a 24-team tournament, with 12 teams from each conference making the playoffs.

That includes the Blackhawks, who were in 12th place in the Western Conference when the season was suspended on March 12th due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be their first time in the playoffs since the 2016-2017 season.

Jeremy Colliton’s team will get their playoffs going with a best-of-five series against the fifth-seeded Edmonton Oilers. The top four teams in each conference will play a round-robin tournament in order to determine seeding.

The winners will then take part in the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs, but how the teams will be seeded is still being determined by the NHL. While the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be seven games, the league is still deciding whether the first two rounds will be the best-of-five or seven series.

The regular season is concluded, and the seven teams who won’t play in the tournament will enter the NHL Draft Lottery. Those teams that lose in the qualifying round will then be entered in the draft lottery.

These games will be played in two hub cities: one for Eastern Conference teams and one for Western Conference teams. Those sites have yet to be determined, but Chicago is among the ten cities being considered as hosts. Where the league goes will depend on local COVID-19 restrictions and testing availability.

Whoever gets it, Bettman said, there will be an “comprehensive system of testing” for the virus.

Before these playoff begin, the teams will hold a training camp, but Bettman said he doesn’t see it beginning before July 1st. Currently, the league is transitioning into Phase 2 of their return to play plan, where small group workouts will be held at team facilities without coaches.

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