How To Salvage the 2020 Stanley Cup
There has been much speculation about how the National Hockey League will figure out a way to award the Stanley Cup in 2020.
Of course, the NHL season was shut down, like just about everything else, in March due to concerns of spreading the coronavirus at mass gatherings.
The truth of the matter is the NHL is at the mercy of multiple health authorities here. Will some teams be able to start up before others? When will players be able to cross the border? Can they satisfy authority concerns by playing in front of empty stadiums? Does the NHL really want to play in front of empty stadiums?
The NHL does not know the answer to these questions, so if anyone tells you they do know the answers, don’t trust them. All we do know is that the NHL has asked all their member teams for available arena dates for July and August. We can safely assume the NHL already has such dates for September and beyond as they are already preparing for next season. Which is the other thing we know for certain - the NHL wants a full 2020-21 season. And the NHL has a date in mind for the latest they will start the new season. Everything works backward from whatever that date is.
With little else to talk about, many of hockey’s television and media pundits are speculating about a summer of hockey where teams are back on the ice in late June, completing the season in July and completing the playoffs in August or even September. Allow a few weeks for the draft, free agency and training camp for the next season, and we’re right back at it no later than November for the new season.
Assuming the NHL can satisfy all the various authorities to resume play, there is nothing stopping the league from drastically changing the Stanley Cup playoff format. Maybe they reduce the games played - from best of seven series to best of five, or maybe even best of 3? That would make for a lot of excitement, and the NHL will need to capture hockey fans interest. Hockey fans love hockey season, but they also love their summers.
And that’s likely the best case scenario. The worst case scenario - perhaps the more likely scenario - is the authorities get in the way to prevent the resumption of play and the awarding of the Stanley Cup. It just might not be feasible for the NHL to complete the current season while still having a full season next year.
In which case, I have a solution. Let’s just focus on the next season, and return with a bang. We open the new season by giving the spotlight to the ladies. Team Canada. Team USA. The top women in hockey playing in a best of seven series for the Stanley Cup championship, followed by the debut of the new NHL season. Even better, also debut the National Women’s Hockey League.
The failure to complete the 2019-20 NHL season would go down in history as one of the worst things to happen in hockey. Finding a way to award the Stanley Cup to the women in 2020 would be remembered forever in hockey history.