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The NHL is plotting its return to action. Image Credit: AP

New York: The NHL announced Tuesday it will abandon the rest of the regular season and go straight into a conference-based playoff format with 24 teams competing in two hub cities.

“We believe we have constructed an overall plan that will produce a worthy Stanley Cup champion,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

“While we are hopeful we will be able to resume play for the Stanley Cup, we intend to do it with timetable that allows us to get back to a full calendar for the 1920-21 season.”

Bettman did not give specific dates for a return to play and said the two hub cities would be chosen at a later date.

He said training camps won’t open until July 1 at the earliest, and confirmed that small groups of players will be able to resume working out at the teams’ training facilities in early June.

The NHL season has been on pause since March 12 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all players currently remain under league-mandated quarantine.

Phase 2 of the NHL’s return also includes protocols for travelling to club cities, testing, opening practice facilities and the small group workouts. Those on-ice sessions are only for players, with no coaches or other team personnel are allowed on the ice.

He said there are currently 10 cities in the running for the two hub cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Bettman also said the Draft Lottery would go ahead on June 26, adding they still had to decide whether it would done in one or two phases.