Who woulda thought the NHL would be the first major professional sports league to announce their "return to play" plan? As the PA Announcer for the Dallas Stars you KNOW I'm excited. On Tuesday, commisioner Gary Bettman held a virtual press conference to outline the plan, and here's what it means for the Dallas Stars.
First off, the Stars will get a first round bye in the Playoffs because they were a top 4 team in the Western Conference when the season was placed on hold. That doesn't mean they won't play any games until the second round. The Stars will play in a round-robin with the other top teams in the west, the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights to determine the top four seeds in the West. All four teams have an equal chance of winning the top seed. This is also exciting news as this means the Stars will be in the Playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in 12 years!
Secondly, Dallas remains one of the NHL's top 10 cities to be considered as a "Hub" for these Conference tournaments. According to the commissioner (above) the league will ultimately settle on two Hub Cities, one for the Western Conference and one for the Eastern Conference.
Finally, even though we now know the plan, we still have a long way to go. On Monday the NHL announced Phase 2. In early June teams can return to home practice facilities for voluntary, small group, and on and off-ice training. Phase 3 will be the opening of Training Camp which wouldn't happen any earlier than July 1, and finally Phase 4 would be teams gathering in Hub Cities for the tournaments, timeframe TBA, so most likely late July, early August. The commish also hinted to the press today that with this season's delay, the next season, the full 2020-21 NHL season could start as late as January.