“There’s no magic to starting in October,” Gary Bettman said this week, but there may be some found in finishing then.
For it looks increasingly like that’s when the commissioner will be handing over the Stanley Cup if health conditions allow the NHL to go ahead with a 24-team tournament to crown a champion at the end of its coronavirus-interrupted season.
Bettman was reluctant to attach specific dates to his league’s return-to-play plan after Tuesday’s unveiling and said anybody who did would be “guessing.”
So let’s stick with the known facts, as best we can, in sketching out how the NHL might transition from paused to completing the playoffs.
The earliest players will be required to report to their teams for training camp is July 10. That was communicated to them in a Thursday afternoon memo. While there’s no certainty the league will be ready to transition to Phase 3 at that point — camps could conceivably open later in the month instead — let’s use the best-case scenario as a baseline.