NHL will use altered playoff format if it can resume season

AP photo by Charles Krupa / NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced Tuesday that the league would not finish the regular season but would expand its playoffs to 24 teams if able to resume the 2019-20 schedule amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The NHL will abandon the rest of the 2019-20 regular season and go straight into the Stanley Cup playoffs with 24 teams instead of 16 - if the professional hockey league is able to resume play.

Commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Tuesday afternoon in a news conference, said the decision is not a guarantee that games are coming back. The NHL and the NHL Players' Association still must figure out health and safety protocols and determine other logistics, including where to play.

"This is a meaningful start, I think, but it's only a start," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told The Associated Press after the announcement. "We have to make sure that we can actually implement all the things which are necessary in order to protect the health and safety of the players and all the rest of the staff."