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Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars is cautiously optimistic that the National Hockey League will resume play this summer under a format recently approved by the NHL Players Association.
The vote was 29-2 among the 31 player representatives.
But the former University of Maine star said there is still a long way to go and much to be ironed out before they play their first game.
The league suspended play on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposed format would feature a 24-team playoff format. Normally, 16 of the 31 teams qualify.
The top four teams in each conference would earn a first-round bye and the other eight in each conference would play in a best-of-five playoff series.
The top four teams in the East and West conferences would play a round-robin tournament to decide the seedings and they would be paired up against the four teams that survived the best-of-five series in their respective conferences.
All series after the preliminary round would be best-of-seven and all of the postseason games will be played without spectators at two sites, which have yet to be determined.
Bishop said he hasn’t been dwelling on the possible return of hockey because there are so many unanswered questions. His wife, Andrea, is set to give birth to their second son in three weeks to join 2-year-old Benjamin IV.
“There are a lot of variables,” Bishop said.
“There’s no sense wasting every day hoping and wishing and guessing,” he said. “So I am enjoying my time with the family.”
The NHL announced over the weekend that it was ready to advance to Phase 2 and was looking at early June as the date for it to be initiated.
Phase 2 involves a maximum of six players at once being able to train at the team facilities. All have to wear face coverings except when they are on the ice. Players are the only team personnel allowed on the ice and there won’t be any contact. Players can do off-ice workouts and receive treatments for injuries.
“It’s still pretty vague,” Bishop said.
He said conflicting news reports about the coronavirus make it difficult to digest all the dynamics involved.
“We have to make sure we don’t jump into something [too soon], “ Bishop said. “They have to have the players’ best interests in mind.”
The three-time finalist for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender said he has been working out regularly at his own makeshift gym and at the home of a teammate.
He said it would take players at least two weeks of training camp to start feeling OK and longer to get back into top game sharpness.
“But having three weeks of training camp and then going right into the playoffs is a whole different animal,” he said.
Bishop is one of five former Black Bears playing in the NHL this season. Two of them, Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Ben Hutton, are on teams that would not be involved in the playoffs.
The other UMaine products who would be in the playoffs are Columbus Blue Jacket forwards Devin Shore and Gustav Nyquist.
Shore was traded from Anaheim to Columbus this season and appeared in six games with Columbus before the league was shut down. Former UMaine standout John Tortorella coaches the Blue Jackets.
Until the season resumes, if it does, Bishop said he’ll be working on putting together a room for his new son. He may not see much of the baby if the season is resumed and all the players are located in two cities.
“You don’t want to leave your newborn for two months but we’ll see,” he said.
Watch: What does returning to normal look like?