Hurricanes, Lightning voted against NHL’s proposed return-to-play format

Brian Burke breaks down what he likes – and what he doesn’t – in the NHL’s return-to-play format. Which goalies would he not want to face, and will we see upsets in a best-of-five series? All that, and a tour of his home office.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes voted against the NHL’s proposed return-to-play format last week, their team representatives have confirmed.

The NHLPA’s executive committee, which features one player representative from all 31 teams, voted in favour of continuing to negotiate with the league over a proposed 24-team return-to-play format.

Hurricanes representative Jordan Martinook announced his team’s decision Monday on a conference call, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

“For where we were and where our team thought we could get to, it hurts our odds,” Martinook said. “(But) it’s not like we don’t want to play.”

Lighting representative Alex Killorn confirmed his team voted no in an interview with The Athletic over the weekend.

“I brought the format to my team,” Killorn said. “They didn’t feel it was fair that certain teams that probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs would have a chance to make the playoffs in a best-of-five series. My team also felt it was unfair that the teams with a bye would not be as well prepared for a playoff series as the teams that had already basically played a playoff series to get into the playoffs.

“This was not my opinion alone. As the PA rep I have a duty to represent the voice of my entire team. I don’t want people to think that we don’t want to play. Everyone on our team wants to play. In saying that, we are fine with the vote the PA took and we are ready with it going forward.”

Under the proposed format, which hasn’t been finalized, the top four teams by points percentage in each conference would automatically clinch playoff berths while the next eight teams would play best-of-five series to determine the other four playoff spots. But some questions still need to be answered, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, including whether the playoffs will be a bracket or based on seeding.

The Lightning in this format would be one of the top four teams in the East, while the Hurricanes would be seeded No. 6 and have to face No. 11, the New York Rangers.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the teams that voted yes. In an interview with Friedman, team representative Kris Letang said no solution will be a perfect solution.

“At the end of the day, nobody gets exactly what they want,” Letang said. “But, we all want what is best for hockey and to continue to grow the game.”

On Monday the NHL announced plans for Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan, which allows limited on-ice training and gives some testing guidelines to teams. Monday’s announcement doesn’t include a specific timeline for returning to the ice, but the NHL has set a target goal of early June to allow small groups of players to begin using team facilities.

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