Given the circumstances, there was no way the NHL was going to make everyone happy. Is a 24-team Stanley Cup tournament in the dead of summer the ideal solution here? Probably not. But when it comes to what millions of other people are enduring as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, carping over a professional league’s playoff system would undoubtedly fall under the scope of First World problems.
That’s not to say that hockey fans should simply unconditionally accept what the NHL is giving them and be grateful for having it without complaint. If anything, this crisis has likely taught professional sports leagues that they are nothing without the fans who consume their products. Sit down, shut up and take what we give you is not the attitude any league should have right now.
And the NHL, whose handling of this crisis has been exemplary, clearly has not done that. What it has done is make the best of what is potentially a very desperate situation, doing the delicate dance of responding to the needs of a league that is facing a $1.1 billion shortfall in revenues while trying to maintain the integrity of what it means to win the Stanley Cup. And it has done a very good job of that.
It’s also a desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures move, one that by its very nature should be temporary. And, thankfully, that’s exactly what it is. If the NHL manages to overcome all the logistical obstacles in its way and you liked having expanded playoffs this year, enjoy it because if the NHL’s word is any indication, it will not be coming back. And for that we say a hearty Hallelujah.
When asked on Tim & Sid whether this playoff format is a one-off, Bettman was adamant.