SUNRISE, Fla. – 142 days.
That's how much time will have passed between NHL games in what will be remembered as the longest and most unprecedented season in league history.
On Friday, the NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) officially agreed on a Return to Play Plan to resume the 2019-20 season with a 24-team postseason.
In addition, the two sides also ratified a four-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, bringing labor peace to the NHL through the 2025-26 season.
It's huge news for hockey fans, as it brings back their beloved sport in the short term and ensures it will be played uninterrupted for another six years.
The best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifiers will begin on Saturday, Aug. 1 with five games on the schedule, including Game 1 between the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders.
Game 2 will be played two days later on Aug. 4, with Game 3 coming the following day on Aug. 5.
Games 4 and 5, both if necessary, are scheduled for Aug. 7 and Aug. 9.
The Eastern Conference games will take place in Toronto and the Western Conference will play in Edmonton. Each team will travel to their respective hub city on July 26.
Games will be played on a staggered basis, with five or six taking place each day until teams begin to get eliminated.
Start times for the games in Toronto will be noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. In Edmonton, games will begin at 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. (all times Eastern). Obviously, start times may fluctuate due to overtime sessions or games that just may take a little longer.
After arriving and getting settled, every team will have the opportunity to play a couple of exhibition contests prior to the Qualifying Round, and those games will take place on July 28, 29 and 30.
Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan, which signifies the start of training camps for all 24 teams participating in the postseason, is set to begin on Monday.
For the Panthers, that means returning to the Ice Den in Coral Springs for nearly two weeks of intense training as they prepare to face the Islanders.
Florida has not won a playoff series since 1996, when they advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing in four games to the Colorado Avalanche.
In the team’s four playoff appearances since their improbable run to the final (1997, 2000, 2012, 2016), the Panthers have a record of 6-16.