Skip to content

NHL unveils 24-team playoff format played in 2 hub cities, ends regular season

Icon Sportswire / Getty

The NHL has officially revealed a 24-team playoff format for its return to play, with each conference playing its games in a single hub city, commissioner Gary Bettman announced Tuesday.

Though there is no official date for a return, Bettman said the league will proceed with the playoffs when teams take the ice again, meaning the 2019-20 regular season is officially over.

Each team will play two exhibition games before the playoffs begin, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports. Teams are allowed to carry 28 skaters and as many goalies as the club desires, he adds.

There are 10 hub cities currently under consideration:

  • Chicago
  • Columbus
  • Dallas
  • Edmonton
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • Pittsburgh
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver

If Canada continues to require 14-day quarantines for individuals entering the country, the league will have to consider U.S. cities only, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, according to Sportsnet's Arash Madani.

Seeding will be determined by conference standings based on points percentage - a calculation dividing accrued points by maximum possible points based on games played.

The top four teams in each conference will receive byes to the first round of the playoffs, but they will play against each other to determine seeding. These games will be played with regular-season overtime and shootout rules, with ties in the final standings broken by regular-season points percentage.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will play best-of-five qualifying series to determine which four clubs advance to the first round. The matchups will be based on conference standings by points percentage (fifth versus 12th; sixth versus 11th; seventh versus 10th; eighth versus ninth) and will feature continuous 5-on-5 overtime when necessary.

The return-to-play committee is still discussing whether first- and second-round matchups will be based on seeding or follow a bracket. It must also determine whether the first two rounds following the play-in will be best-of-five or best-of-seven series.

The conference finals and the Stanley Cup Final will be best-of-seven series.

Bettman said he thinks the league can get through the qualifying round and the first two rounds of a 16-team postseason in "a little over a month."

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox