Right now, we’re at the point in this “return to play” process where votes to hold other votes about whether or not to hold more votes make the news. Case in point: the NHLPA has approved “further negotiations” with the NHL over how a 24-team return to play scenario would continue.
“The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup,” said the NHLPA. “Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”
Basically, the statement means that nothing has changed and things are continuing along their current trajectory. Now, it is important that the NHLPA corroborated the ongoing discussions because it lets people know that things are on track for a return to play following the NHL’s pause on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it also reaffirms what we already know: that there is no timetable for an actual return to play and no real indication as to what that will look like.
There are, as ever, only ideas. Those ideas have been enough grist for the sports media mill over the last few days and weeks, luckily, but they do little to provide concrete information for those wondering when and how they can get their next real hockey fix.
We know that, right now, these negotiations are coming down to the fairest and safest way to do things.
We know that the NHL has tabled a proposal wherein the top four seeds in each conference quality for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After that, a sort of play-in has been proposed in which the next eight teams in each conference will compete to see who else can challenge for the Cup. Those matchups will be based on the standings when the league paused way back in March.
Obviously, the extenuating circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic has turned everything upside down. The league is expected to take a $1.1 billion hit in revenue and it’ll take some time for things to return to anything resembling normal.
But for now, this is the best we’ve got. And if that means the news cycle continues with more meetings and votes about holding the next meetings and votes, so be it.