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The National Hockey League Players’ Association executive board has approved a proposal to resume the 2019-20 season with a 24-team, conference-based playoff format.

Other issues remain to be worked out between the two sides before the players will return to the ice, the union said.

“The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play,” the union’s statement read.

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The executive board includes a representative from each of the league’s 31 teams.

Under the plan, byes into the second round would go to the top four seeds in each conference based on points percentage as of March 12, when the NHL paused the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Stanley Cup and the original Stanley Cup are handled after an anniversary event in Ottawa in 2017. The NHL is on hold, but both players and league governors appear determined to award the cup to a champion this year.

Adrian Wyld/The Associated Press

Based on that, the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference would be the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. The top four Western Conference teams would be the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars. Those teams would play in a three-game tournament to stay sharp, SportsNet reported.

The other 16 teams would play in a best-of-five, play-in first round.

The rest of the bracketed playoff format would have the 5 vs. 12 winner playing the fourth seed, the 6 vs. 11 winner playing the three seed, the 7 vs. 10 winner playing the two seed and the 8 vs. 9 winner playing the one seed in best-of-seven series, according to the report. All remaining series would be best-of-seven, too.

Multiple media outlets have reported that hub cities would be utilized if the plan is approved and that fans would not be allowed in the arenas.

Canada’s NHL teams have offered season-ticket holders rebate or refund options in acknowledgement that no more games will be played in front of fans in their respective buildings.

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In a four-day span from May 13 to 16, all seven teams contacted their season-ticket bases with options and, in some cases, deadlines to make a decision.

“It has become increasingly apparent, that any possibility will not include any further games being played this season in front of fans at Bell MTS Place,” the Winnipeg Jets said in an e-mail.

That admission may seem anticlimactic given leagues and teams around the world are either playing in empty stadiums, or trying to figure out a way to do that during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But season-ticket money is foundational to an NHL team’s business, and clubs are loathe to part with it. It’s often paid, or partially paid, in advance.

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but are also pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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