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Gary Bettman Announces NHL's Return To Play Plans, Ending Regular Season And Planning Playoffs In Two 'Hub Cities'

BOSTON (CBS) -- The NHL wants to return. Whether the league is able to do that during the coronavirus pandemic is yet to be determined. But the league now has an extensive plan for how it wants to return.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Tuesday afternoon that the 2019-20 regular season is over, and that when the NHL returns, it will involve the top 24 teams in the league. The other seven teams are done for the  year.

The NHL suspended the 2019-20 season indefinitely on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. At that time, the league asked teams to ensure arena availability through the end of July.

On Tuesday, Bettman said the plan is to play through the summer and the fall in order to determine a Stanley Cup winner.

Here's a brief recap of everything Bettman announced regarding the league's plan to return to the ice.

Bettman shared the NHL's plans for returning to play.

--24 teams will resume play

--Top 12 in each conference (by percentage points)

--Other seven teams will enter draft lottery

--Regular season is now complete. No more stats will be added to the regular season.

--Each conference will be assigned to a "hub city." Those cities are yet to be announced. This includes hotels, arena, practice facilities, and transportation.

--Maximum of 50 personnel allowed for each team.

--"Comprehensive" COVID-19 testing.

--Potential hub cities (not yet decided):

Las Vegas
Los Angeles
Minneapolis/St. Paul

--"Phase 2" in early June -- small group training on and off the ice.

--"Phase 3" will happen no earlier than July 1, and depends on "medical and civil authorities." This step involves the opening of training camps.

--"Phase 4" will involve the 24 teams reporting to their hub cities.

--Games will be played through the summer and into the early fall.

--No schedule can be made yet.

--Top four teams get automatic berths to first round of playoffs but will play each other in round robin to determine seeding. Regular season OT/shootout rules. Ties in the standings broken by regular-season points percentage.

--Remaining eight teams play best-of-five series to advance to first round of playoffs. Games played with playoff OT rules.

--Conference-based playoffs begin in each hub city.

--Teams resuming play in the Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay
New York Islanders
New York Rangers

--Teams resuming play in the Western Conference:

St. Louis

"Obviously, these are extraordinary and unprecedented times. Any plan for the resumption of play, by definition, cannot be perfect," Bettman said. "And I am certain that depending on which team you root for, you can find some element of this package that you might prefer to be done differently. But we believe we have constructed an overall plan that includes all teams that as a practical matter might have had a chance of qualifying for the playoffs when the season was paused. And this plan will produce a worthy Stanley Cup champion who will have run the postseason gauntlet that is unique to the NHL."

Bettman was also careful to note that given the state of North America in the pandemic, no plans can be cemented just yet.

"We will not set dates, choose sites or begin to play until we know it is appropriate and prudent, and we are approved to do so," Bettman said.

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