The NHL sets an official date for Phase 3 of the season restart, but there is still some uncertainty regarding Phase 4.
With sports leagues starting to come back following the global pandemic, the NHL announced it would initiate Phase 3 of the league’s return-to-play plan on July 10. This phase will allow for the 24 teams still vying for the coveted Stanley Cup to organize training camps in preparation for the end to the league’s hiatus.
This next stage comes with some challenges however, as the pressure to initiate Phase 4 is still up in the air until we know which hub cities will be hosting the Eastern and Western Conferences. There is still no official date for the start of the 24-team playoff.
Still, the return to full-team activities at regional training camps is a step in the right direction and could help speed up the hub city selection process. Some cities being considered include Edmonton, Las Vegas and Vancouver for the Western Conference, while Toronto and Pittsburgh are in the hunt to host the Eastern Conference side of the bracket.
Regardless of the to-be-determined start date of the unique playoff format, teams should have a considerable amount of time to rev up team activities at exclusive training camps. After such a long layoff that could disrupt the chemistry of teams that had been clicking prior to the hiatus, training camp will allow for competing teams to get back into the swing of things.
When the puck does eventually drop and the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, the New York Rangers will face the Carolina Hurricanes while the New York Islanders will battle with the Florida Panthers. Both New York squads are quite familiar with their opponents from previous years. The Rangers have an opportunity to shock the Canes while the Isles are hoping they can win a matchup of clashing styles.