The NHL’s best-of-five qualifying round will commence on July 30 with 16 teams battling it out in their respective conference’s hub city.
Nearly a month following NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s outline of a return-to-play format for the Stanley Cup Playoff, the dates have been set for the return, with the hub city selections still pending. The tournament’s qualifying rounds are scheduled to start on Thursday, July 30, as first reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
Training camps beginning on July 10 will last two weeks before traveling to the assigned hub city. More on the locations of these bubble locations should be announced in the coming weeks, but a tentative date for a return to hockey is a welcoming sign.
This news comes a day after multiple players and personnel within the Tampa Bay Lightning tested positive for the novel coronavirus at the team’s facility. Cases in states such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona have skyrocketed in recent weeks, which could spell trouble for the league’s resumption. Every team from those respective states — the Lightning, Panthers, Stars, and Coyotes — will be duking it out for the coveted Stanley Cup.
In order to prevent the spread of the virus upon the league’s resumption, testing will be conducted every day at each team’s respective practice facility. The facilities will also follow social distancing guidelines so as to approach the impending return date with as much caution as possible.
Both the New York Islanders and New York Rangers will participate in the best-of-five qualifying rounds, with the Isles pitted up against the Florida Panthers, while the Rangers will square off against the Carolina Hurricanes.