FanPulse Results: What an NHL season restart is expected to look like

With hockey on hold, this is how hockey fans believe things will unfold when it comes back.

As the Montreal Canadiens were preparing to play a final home game before heading out on the annual California road trip, news broke that a National Basketball Association player had tested positive for the coronavirus. Before the end of the night the NBA had suspended its season. The next day, the NHL took the same step, and things have spiralled from there as North America now deals with the pandemic sweeping the continent.

What officials had hoped would just be a break of a few weeks now looks to extend over a period of months. Even so, those in charge of the various sports leagues are looking at ways to get the current season completed once it’s safe to resume operations, while also being mindful of the next campaign.

With all those factors in mind, SB Nation’s FanPulse members were asked for their thoughts on how things would eventually play out. One thing the vast majority — six of every seven respondents — agrees upon is that not all of the remaining 11 to 14 games each team was scheduled to play will take place.

A sizable percentage of those who selected “no” don’t see the season restarting in any capacity — regular season or otherwise. But a slight majority believes there will be a team hoisting the Stanley Cup later this year.

The changes may not just be limited to shortening the regular season to squeeze everything in. Two-thirds of members are expecting changes to how the post-season matchups are handled. The normal three seeds per division plus two wild cards per conference isn’t likely to be the method for the 2020 playoffs in the eyes of those who took the survey.

Respondents were split on whether those changes should include adding play-in games to effectively increase the pool of teams. Half said there should be such contests, half said there should not, though it’s possible part of that decision comes from wanting at least best-of-three series rather than single-elimination matches, which “play-in game” could be interpreted as, to determine final seeding.

Whatever the final results look like to bring the 2019-20 season to a close, it’s expected by most that the 2020-21 calendar will be unaffected. It seems that’s the goal everyone in the league is aiming for as well, with the full schedule for next year a priority for the league. As days and weeks go on, the window for that start to happen at the beginning of October begins to close. That remains the general expectation, but 44% of members believe things will be a bit different for next season as well.

If you would like to have your say in polls like this in the future, be sure to sign up for NHL FanPulse.

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