Hockey fans are excited that the NHL appears headed for a return and confident the league’s plan—to hold a 24-team playoffs based in two hub cities—will work.
According to the most recent SB Nation Reacts survey, 73 percent of responding fans listed their excitement level as at least an eight on a scale of 1-10, with 47 percent selecting 10. Although it feels like a month ago, the league announced formal plans to return and finish the 2019-20 season just last week.
Similarly, 71 percent of fans said they think the NHL needs to make sure to find a way to conclude this season’s playoffs in their entirety, so that the 2020 Stanley Cup can be awarded. Roughly two-thirds of fans say they like the planned playoff format, where the top four seeds in each conference will have a round-robin for seeding while the bottom eight start with a play-in round. Under this plan, the Predators will face the Arizona Coyotes in the play-in round, and then either continue to the next or be entered into the draft lottery.
While details surrounding the plan are still unannounced, projections appear to have play begin again sometime in late July or early August. Much of that depends on continued progression against COVID-19. 68 percent of responding fans said they think the league will start before August 1.
The only place that saw anything resembling a shake in fan confidence came when looking at the bigger picture. In order to conclude this season, next year’s NHL schedule will need to be dramatically adjusted, and potentially the following year’s as well.
When asked if it’s worth dramatic changes to next year’s season just to finish this season, only 57 percent said yes.
This is a tricky one, because as it stands there is no way to finish the 2019-20 season without impacting at least the 2020-21 season.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are guaranteed to run into the usual time for training camp, and probably into October as well. Then, players who competed in the playoffs—especially those of the teams that made it to the Final—will need time to rest and to recover from injuries in order to start 2020-21 on the same foot as everyone else. Women’s basketball has showed us the ongoing risk to player health that not having an offseason creates as fatigue and strain build up without relief. Meanwhile, teams will want to determine contract renewal status, sign free agents, evaluate prospects, and more. Without some kind of offseason, that won’t happen either.
The NHL both cannot and should not resume in October, or even November, if it goes ahead with the plan to finish the 2019-20 season and award the Cup this year.
If you’re one of the 71% who said the NHL needs to find a way to finish this season and one of the 43% who said it wasn’t worth it if it impacted future seasons drastically, we’d love to hear from you.
To vote in the Reacts surveys and have your voice heard each week, sign up here.