The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the “bubble playoffs”, were nothing short of an immense success for the NHL. The venture may have cost the league upwards of $90MM to put on and there were a few complaints after the fact about living conditions and scheduling, but the postseason was an incredible accomplishment for the league and players’ association. In the midst of a global pandemic, the NHL hosted 24 teams in two cities over two months, fielded a workable playoff structure and competitive match-ups that yielded a fair champion, all while receiving zero positive COVID-19 results out of more than 33,000 tests. It was as close to perfect execution as anyone could have expected.

Yet, the issues faced in planning the postseason are exponentially more difficult to tackle in mapping out how the 2020-21 regular season may proceed. As Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly tells The Athletic’s Michael Russo, “it’s going to be a challenge”:

It’s a totally different challenge and requires a whole bunch of different considerations that I think probably, in some respects, are more challenging than the (postseason) return to play plans. You need to gather as much information as you can, you need to take as much time as you can, and you need to make the best decisions you can…