2020 NHL playoffs: Bill Daly discusses 24-team plan, hub cities, testing and more

Jordan Hall
NBC Sports Philadelphia

As the NHL announced its 24-team return-to-play model this week, excitement built around the idea of hockey coming back and the Stanley Cup Playoffs being held.

Flyers fans were smack-dab in the middle of the excitement because their team is in a promising spot among the field and was climbing when the season was suspended March 12.

Inevitably and understandably, many were left with questions, as well, following the league's releasing of its plan.

Two big ones: When can everyone expect games to start and what will it take to be able to do so?

With the current uncertain nature of the coronavirus pandemic, those questions are still in the process of being answered.

The NHL is hoping to begin Phase 2 (players returning to team practice facilities for voluntary activities) in early June. Phase 3 (mandatory team training camps) won't happen before July 10, which means the implementation of Phase 4 (resuming play) can occur at the earliest late July, with the beginning of August more likely.

What might that look like for the players and permitted personnel?

"We haven't fully developed either our Phase 3 or our Phase 4 protocol at this point in time," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Michael Barkann. "We have some good models to work with, we have some good ideas, obviously we have our medical advisors and infectious disease specialists who will be helping us construct our Phase 4 protocol.

"But the ideal hub city is a place where there's enough room for players to have a life, they're not going to be sent back to their hotel rooms and stay there 24/7 when they're not practicing and playing, but it's going to be a contained environment and it's going to be a secure environment. It's going to give the players some opportunity for some entertainment and some freedom, but within a contained environment. We have some ideas on how that works, it will be interesting to see how it works, but that's the concept."

Some of the biggest hurdles for the NHL will be finalizing the protocol for testing and the procedure for positive cases.

"In terms of what we're hearing from our medical advisors on the possibility of a positive test, obviously everybody in this environment is going to be tested very, very frequently on a daily basis," Daly said. "The players will all be tested before they go back to their rooms at night, we'll have those test results turned around before they leave their rooms in the morning. If we have a positive test, we'll get the person involved the appropriate medical care, we'll isolate them right away. We have been told by our advisors that depending on the circumstances, it doesn't necessarily mean a whole team has to be quarantined, it won't necessarily shut down the entire tournament, so we're working on that assumption right now. Obviously if we start to get multiple positives or an outbreak type of situation, it's an entirely different analysis. But at least now, we're working on the assumption that one positive test doesn't shut down the entire tournament."

The tournament will be held in two hub cities - one for the Eastern Conference and the other for the Western Conference. Philadelphia is not an option. The cities being considered for both conferences are Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Edmonton, Alberta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Flyers practice in Voorhees, New Jersey, and were given the OK on Tuesday by Gov. Phil Murphy to return to training and even competition at the Skate Zone facility.

"At the time of when we came up with the hub city concept and started working with cities, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, they were hot spots for sure, and I think continue to be more than some of our other cities," Daly said. "That's one of the things we evaluated and kept track of throughout this process. Before we went to opening training facilities in Phase 2, we wanted to make sure the clubs were on a relatively equal footing with respect to their ability to open their training facilities."

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2020 NHL playoffs: Bill Daly discusses 24-team plan, hub cities, testing and more originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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