Vegas Golden Knights hockey is back baby!
Yes, after months of waiting, 142 days to be precise, the Vegas Golden Knights and the rest of the National Hockey League will finally make a triumphant return.
After halting operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Hockey League have been busy putting in place a carefully constructed Return To Play Plan.
Teams have been skating in small groups at team facilities since June in what was a tentative first step of the comeback.
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And now, following a successful vote by both the NHL and the NHLPA on Friday, the 2019-20 season will now be officially resumed.
Plus, in further good news, as part of the Return To Play Plan, the two parties also agreed to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement for four years, ensuring labor peace through the 2025-26 season.
That is tremendous news for hockey fans, especially when you consider that the new agreement will allow NHL players to attend the Olympics in both 2022 and 2026.
We’ll cover the CBA in more detail shortly, in addition to breaking down the full Return To Play Schedule, but the bottom line is that the Golden Knights will now get the chance to finish what they started in 2019-20.
Training Camps will now open on July 13 before all 24 teams participating in the postseason will depart for the two Hub Cities on July 26.
Those two Hub Cities, by the way, will be Toronto and Edmonton with the former hosting the Eastern Conference and the latter hosting the Golden Knights and the Western Conference.
Each team will play one exhibition game between July 28 – 30 before the real fun and games begin on August 1.
The Stanley Cup Qualifiers will begin that day with 16 teams contesting a best-of-five Play-In Series, with the losers entering Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery with a 12.5% chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick.
While those Play-In Games are being contested, the Golden Knights will take on the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars and the Colorado Avalanche in a three-game round-robin tournament to decide seedings for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the Washington Capitals, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning will do the same in the Eastern Conference.
The Golden Knights enter the round-robin tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, but they will have a chance to steal the top seed.
Vegas will open the three-game, round-robin tournament on Aug. 3, against the Dallas Stars, before taking on the St. Louis Blues on Aug. 6, and the Colorado Avalanche on Aug. 8.
Then, on August 11, the actual Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin with the commencement of the First Round.
The Second Round will get started on August 25, the Conference Finals are slated to begin on Sept. 8, and the Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for Sept. 22, with Oct. 4, the last possible day of the Final.
The 2020 NHL Entry Draft will quickly take place after a 2019-20 Stanley Cup Champion is crowned, on either Oct. 9 or 10 to be precise, while Free Agency will then open seven days after the Stanley Cup is awarded in what will be a truncated off-season.
Additionally, the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final will be played in Edmonton.
Each team, including the Golden Knights, will be permitted to take 52 individuals into the Secure Zones in the Hub Cities, including a maximum of 31 players.
All personnel will be tested daily while NHL players can now opt out of Training Camps and the Stanley Cup Playoffs without penalty until 5 p.m. ET on Monday with no reason required.
This is a huge day for the Vegas Golden Knights and the National Hockey League, and we can now look forward to seeing a Stanley Cup Champion crowned this year.
We will break down both the Return To Play Schedule and the CBA in full over the coming days but, for now, let’s just bask in the glory of hockey and the Golden Knights finally returning!