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The NHL was entering the final stretches of the 2019-20 regular season when they were forced to shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. After months of planning and preparations, the professional hockey league is finally getting ready to return to action. Instead of finishing the last few regular-season games, the league is jumping straight into the playoffs on August 1. Here is how the NHL plans to complete its 2020 season. 

Two Hub Cities
In order to keep the players as safe as possible, the NHL is creating two hub cities. The Western Conference teams will play all of their games in Edmonton while the Eastern Conference games take place in Toronto. Once the players arrive in the hub city, they will not be allowed to leave until their team is eliminated from the playoffs. They will also be regularly tested for the virus to prevent unnecessary spread. 

Qualifying Round
Since the regular season was cut short, the NHL has decided to expand the playoffs to 24 teams in 2020. The last eight qualified teams from each conference will play in the opening round. These teams will be seeded based on their position in the standings when the season was halted. This will be a best-of-five series, so the first team to win three games against their scheduled opponent will move on to the next round. 

Seeding Round-Robin Round
While the Qualifying Round is taking place, the top four teams in the Eastern and Western Conference will also be competing at the same time in a three-game round-robin tournament. The results of this mini-tournament will be used to determine each team’s seeding in the playoff bracket. All ties will be broken using the regular-season standings. This round was created to give the top teams a few competitive games before their playoff schedule starts. 

Rest of Playoffs
Once the Qualifying round and seeding tournament are finished, the NHL will transition to their typical playoff bracket. The 16 remaining teams will compete until there is only one team left standing. This team will get to hoist the Stanley Cup Trophy in early October. Each playoff series after the initial qualifying series will last up to seven games.