NHLPA Approves Return To Play, But What If Players Don't Feel Safe?

Vegas Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer shared his thoughts on the 24-team return-to-play format, as well as how he would handle players who don't feel safe

Zach Gelb
May 26, 2020 - 7:38 am
Peter DeBoer Vegas Golden Knights

USA Today Images


The NHL Players’ Association has approved a 24-team return-to-play format to determine the winner of the Stanley Cup.

Under this format, the top four seeds in the East would be the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers, while the top four teams in the West would be the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars. 

The remainder of the field would be bracketed. The 5-seed would play the 12-seed, with the winner playing the 4-seed; the 6-seed would play the 11-seed, with the winner playing the 3-seed, etc. The play-in series would be best-of-five, while the remaining series would be best-of-seven.


“I love it,” Vegas Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said on The Zach Gelb Show. “I just want to get back and play. You can argue 20, 24, 16 [teams] – I think the reality is we were solidly in the [playoffs], so it didn’t matter to me. I’ve been in one of those spots where you’re two or three points out with 15 games to play and you really feel like you can make the playoffs. I think there’s at least 20 teams that were in that spot. So the fact that we’re going to 24, I think it’s great. The cream always rises to the top, especially when you get into the four-out-of-seven series as the playoffs go on. I’m confident that the best team will come out of it.”

While the NHLPA has approved the return-to-play format, what if individual players aren’t on board? What if someone doesn’t feel safe to return? How would teams address that?
“Well, it’s a short conversation: you have to respect that,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think there’s any other way you can handle that. The thing is, pro athletes have lives and they have situations. Maybe they have kids that have issues where they’re more susceptible or family members or personally they have medical issues that makes them more susceptible. There’s all kinds of those things, and just because you play pro sports doesn’t mean you’re immune to that. We have to respect that.

“So for me, that’s a no-brainer,” DeBoer continued. “If someone comes with that type of hesitation for those type of reasons, there’s no question you have to respect that and move forward. I think the league knows that, and I think everybody is prepared for that.”