It’s a sign of normalcy in a very strange time: three months after shutting down, the National Hockey League will resume the 2019-20 season.
And the Vegas Golden Knights are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Dan D'Uva has been the Golden Knights radio play-by-play announcer since the team formed in 2017.
That season, the Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final, only to come up short against the Washington Capitals.
So, will they hoist the Cup this year?
The oddsmakers think so. They're currently tied with two other teams for the best odds to win the Cup, D'Uva said.
But before that happens, the Knights will have to get through the completely rearranged playoff schedule.
On Thursday, the National Hockey League announced its Return to Play Plan, which involves 24 teams in competition for the Stanley Cup.
The tournament will begin with a 16-team, best of five qualifying round and a seeding round-robin among the top four teams in each conference to determine seeds for the playoffs.
In the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars each will have a bye and play in the round-robin to determine their seeding order.
While, in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers each will have a bye and play each other once in the round-robin to determine the order of the top four seeds for the first round of the playoffs.
But D'Uva is skeptical about how much seeding will actually matter.
“Not sure it’s going to mean a whole heck of a lot this year because… these teams have had so much time away what are they going to look like? It could be a very different club on July 15 potentially than it was on March 15,” he said.
The NHL paused the regular season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and said the remaining 189 games would not be completed.
With all that time off, there has been one advantage. The Knights had two important players struggling with injuries. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty had been week to week with significant injuries.
The time off to rehab and access to ice, that a lot of players didn't have, has changed that. They are both now 100 percent to play, but so are other players for other teams, D'Uva pointed out.
The 12 qualifying teams from the Eastern and Western conferences were determined by points percentage as of that date. Seven teams did not qualify.
Phase 2 of the Return to Play Plan, which allows for voluntary limited workouts at team facilities, begins Monday. Full training camps, part of Phase 3, will not begin before July 10.
The plan right now is to play games in so-called 'hub cities.' The league hasn't said which cities those are. D'Uva explained that a city must have enough ice for 12 teams to practice and play. Plus, they must have enough hotel rooms for players and staff.
“They’re moving forward with all of these ‘hub cities’ and then at a point in the future they’ll determine which one ultimately to choose for the Western Conference and which one to choose for the Eastern Conference,” he said.
But the league might decide to send Western Conference teams to the Eastern Conference hub city and vice versa over concerns about giving a home team the advantage.
“I can only imagine the logistical complications the NHL has dealt with in choosing these cities,” he said.
While it remains a long shot, D'Uva believes there might be a chance down the road that fans would be allowed to attend games.
Dan D'Uva, play-by-play broadcaster with the Vegas Golden Knights
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