It’s the news that all Carolina Hurricanes fans have been waiting to hear – hockey is back! Well, it’s on its way back. Over the past weeks, the NHL has announced and refined their return to play plan. This agreement allowed teams to start training camps on July 13, and playoff qualifying rounds will begin Aug. 1.
2020 NHL Playoff Format
The playoff format for the 2019-2020 season will look different than the format hockey fans have enjoyed in previous years. Instead of the typical 16-team format, 24 teams (comprised of the top 12 in each conference) will compete for the Stanley Cup. The teams seeded #5-#12 in each conference will compete in a qualifying round for the chance to play one of the top four teams. Many hockey fans are probably scratching their heads at this confusing change. Never fear – this graphic simplifies the complicated format!
Instead of traveling between cities as usual, all games will occur in one of two hub cities. Eastern Conference teams will compete in Toronto, and Western Conference teams will compete in Edmonton.
The Carolina Hurricanes Return to Raleigh
In Raleigh, we saw a resurgence in the area’s hockey passion last season when the Carolina Hurricanes returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. An unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Final left fans counting down the days until the Canes returned to the ice. A 38-25-5 record had placed the Canes in the fourth spot in the Metropolitan division. They were likely headed to another post-season run. That is, until COVID-19 abruptly put the season on hold.
Since the league announced the hiatus, the Hurricanes Twitter account has kept fans connected to players and coaches. Conducting Zoom calls with players and airing old games has helped keep the hockey spirit alive in North Carolina. Despite all these things, the fans’ attitudes have been clear: we miss hockey!
Finally, the wait is (almost) over! In preparation for that Aug. 1 date, players have returned to Raleigh. Workouts are being held at PNC Arena in small groups, and players are abiding by social distancing guidelines. You can see the social distancing changes to the players’ routine in this video from Hurricanes forward and alternate captain, Jordan Martinook.
The obvious downside to this plan is that fans won’t be able to watch games in person. However, being able to watch hockey on TV will certainly be a welcome addition to life in quarantine!