The NHL’s coronavirus pause: Playoff format, practice plans, draft debate and more


It has been 60 days since the NHL hit the pause button on the 2019-20 season because of the coronavirus pandemic. As the cancellations and postponements around the world of sports continue, there have also been continuous nuggets of new information being provided regarding the potential resumption of the season, the draft, the playoffs and how it all impacts 2020-21.

As players, executives and fans continue to adjust to the new normal, we will provide updates every Monday, answering all the burning questions about the various angles of the NHL’s relation to the pandemic. Although on-ice action remains on the shelf, there have been some intriguing developments since last week’s update. Get caught up here:

Has there been an update on when play could resume?

Greg Wyshynski: Sadly, there is not. The NHL’s 2019-20 season remains paused, as it has been since March 12, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Games have been postponed, not canceled. The league continues to play the waiting game.

(The American Hockey League, meanwhile, has ended its waiting game this week and has canceled the rest of its “paused” season. It’s an even more gate-driven league than the NHL, so a restart in empty arenas doesn’t make much sense. An NHL executive estimated to the Ottawa Sun that “75-to-85% of the revenues for AHL teams are generated by ticket sales and the rest come in from sponsorships.”)

The situation remains fluid and unpredictable for the NHL, which is still at the mercy of local and federal restrictions on travel, mass gatherings and essential businesses. The broad strokes of the NHL’s plans remain consistent: Finish the 2019-20 season, and do it in a way that won’t dramatically impact the integrity of an 82-game 2020-21 season. All possibilities remain on the table for a season restart. But as one NHL source put it last week: Anyone claiming there are concrete dates for a return to play is peddling inaccurate information.

“If we can go back early, we will. If we have to wait, we will. And next year will be determined by when we finish,” the source said.