NHL on Ice but for How Long?

Signs outside the Capital One Arena read that the NHL Season has been suspended due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus. Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP

The NHL has roughly a dozen games left on its regular-season slate but right now the league is frozen and when play resumes is anyone’s guess.

Strange Days Indeed

Match 12th, 2020 was the day the world stopped turning in the NHL as well as in other professional sports due to COVID-19. The league is as frozen as the ice they play on, and as of this writing, we are still unsure as to when play will resume. There have been several proposals bandied about as to when and how the NHL will get back to business but right now, it’s all just speculation.

However, rumors abound that the league will allow players to return for informal workouts by the end of May. A recent joint statement issued by the league and the NHL Players Association read as follows, “The NHL and NHLPA have not made any decisions or set a timeline for possible return to play scenarios. Given recent developments in some NHL Clubs’ local communities, we are now looking ahead to a Phase 2 of the transition period that would follow the currently recommended Phase 1 of ‘self-quarantine’ by Players and Hockey Staff.”

Okay, so there’s not much meat on that bone but with 189 games remaining there is debate as to whether the NHL will honor the rest of the regular-season schedule followed by a truncated playoff schedule, or if the playoff-eligible teams will begin postseason play immediately.

If the league does decide to fulfill the remainder of the regular season in addition to a full playoff format then we could see a Stanley Cup series in September. That would obviously necessitate a delay in the 2020-2021 season in order to give the players their customary three to four-month break depending on how early or late their season wrapped.

In an interesting twist, Swedish players have been allowed to skate in their homeland due to Sweden’s lack of a stay-at-home order. The league has not put any prohibitions on those players but skaters from North America and virtually every European country have been out of commission since the March 12th decree was issued.

Possible Playoff Format

If you click on over to one of the industry’s top-rated online sportsbooks like BetOnline, you will see that the NHL odds are still up for teams to win the Eastern and Western Conference crowns as well as the Stanley Cup.

The Stanley Cup odds are as follows at BOL:

  • Boston Bruins +600
  • Tampa Bay Lightning +700
  • Vegas Golden Knights +700
  • Colorado Avalanche +800
  • Philadelphia Flyers +800
  • St. Louis Blues +1000
  • Washington Capitals +1200
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +1600
  • Dallas Stars +1800
  • Nashville Predators +1800
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +1800
  • Edmonton Oilers +2200
  • Carolina Hurricanes +3300
  • Vancouver Canucks +3300
  • Calgary Flames +4000
  • Arizona Coyotes +5000
  • Minnesota Wild +5000
  • New York Rangers +5000
  • Florida Panthers +6600
  • New York Islanders +6600
  • Winnipeg Jets +6600
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +10000
  • Chicago Blackhawks +25000
  • Montreal Canadiens +100000
All odds available at
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Brayden Schenn #10 of the St. Louis Blues holds the Stanley Cup. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

A proposal being considered is that the top two teams in each division would play a best two of three series to decide the division winner, while the No. 3 division seed plays the No.6, and the No. 3 and No. 4 divisions seeds play for the right to continue into the postseason. Therefore, the mini-series would determine the No. 1 and No. 2 division seeds with both remaining in the playoffs while the winners of the other two mini-series would also remain.

In essence, there would be four teams in each division as playoff entries for a total of 16 teams league-wide. That would be plenty of action to allow for your NHL picks but chances are these games would be played in empty arenas and at designated locations. There would be no home-ice advantage to speak of but at least we would see the fastest game on ice beamed live into our living rooms.

Certainly, it would be a welcome reprieve from the current abyss of anything remotely resembling NHL hockey but how strange it would be to watch without the palpable electricity in the stands from the local fans celebrating every goal and booing every penalty on their hometown heroes. The NHL will be back, but when and how, remains the question.