Penguins players vote ‘yes’ to NHL’s proposed return-to-play format

Faizal Khamisa connects with Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston to dissect the NHLPA's decision to continue negotiating with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format.

As reports swirled that the Pittsburgh Penguins voted against the 24-team resumption of the NHL season, the team’s NHLPA representative, Kris Letang, said that he voted in favour of the proposal.

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

Letang agreed that some players shared strong opinions on Thursday’s conference call, “but we have a union for everyone to express our views. Whatever the format is, some agree, some don’t. As a union, we want to make the best decisions over time, the greater good for everyone.”

Under the proposed format, Letang’s Penguins will open against Montreal. The Canadiens had basically zero chance to make a 16-team field during the regular season, while the Penguins were a lock. It also means an early date with Carey Price, held in high esteem by his peers.

“At the end of the day, the playoffs are a different beast,” Letang said. “No matter (who) you play, it’s going to be hard. (If it wasn’t Montreal), it was going to be Washington, or Philadelphia, or a challenge like that. We have a lot of experience, I’ve never heard of an easy series. Look at Tampa from last year.

“It’s a great challenge for our team right off the bat.”

It’s important to remember that if this playoff proposal does pass (UPDATE: The NHLPA announced Friday night that it had approved holding further negotiations with the NHL over a 24-team format), this doesn’t mean the NHL is back. There are many, many details to be worked out — from testing on down.

“We miss hockey and it would be fun to get the passion back, but the most important thing is everybody’s health,” Letang said. “Only if we can make it safe for everyone — including trainers, coaches, people who work at the rink (will we return to play).”

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