It would be ignorant to pretend I have any idea when the COVID-19 pandemic will end. All we can do, as hockey writers or anyone else, is play the “what if” game. Fact is, there is a chance that the 2019-20 NHL season will not be completed. But the glass-half-full-side of me says it could be the most epic hockey we’ve ever seen.
These unprecedented times are unlike anything anyone has experienced in 101 years. Besides the 2004-05 lockout, the last time the NHL did not award a Stanley Cup was in 1919 after the Spanish flu pandemic infected roughly 500 million, or 1/4th of the Earth’s population.
To predict the peak of the COVID-19 would be nonsensical. But as an optimist, I’d like to imagine that life will return to normalcy one day, and perhaps during the summer.
So, what if the NHL returned in July and played a two-month traditional playoff to award the Stanley Cup? T-shirts and shorts outside and hockey “sweaters” and shorts in the arenas. Firing up the grill in the summer heat before enduring the coldness of an ice rink for three hours.
There’s much to be decided before the league could begin the postponed playoffs. Who gets in? Will we stick to a 16-team bracket after the regular season? Or do we scrap the remaining 10-15 games and go straight into an expanded playoff, perhaps a pre-tournament bracket to determine the wild-card seeds.