The NHL took a step Friday toward resuming its season
The NHL Players' Association's executive board, composed of a player representative from each of the 31 teams, approved a 24-team return-to-play format, but said "several details need to be negotiated" with the NHL.
The vote, reportedly, was 29-2.
More steps will be needed, but the league could soon have players return to small-group skates at their training sites.
The league and players' union still must iron out details such as health and safety issues and whether teams will be reseeded after a proposed play-in round.
Earlier this week, Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, said if one or two players from a team tested positive for the coronavirus, it "wouldn't necessarily require a team quarantine."
Daly said he based that on advice the league and the players' association had separately received from medical experts.
"First and foremost is the health and safety of everyone," former UNH star James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers' player representative, said on Wednesday.
The season was suspended March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The NHL has said a three-week training session would follow before the season could restart, probably in early July.
Under the 24-team plan, the top four teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences would play each other for seeding purposes -- and for keeping the players sharp.
Here are the four top teams in the East: Boston (.714 points percentage), Tampa Bay (.657), Washington (.652), and the Flyers (.645).
The NHL has floated the idea of having the two top teams in each division face each other to decide seedings.
If the NHL uses the traditional 1-vs.-4 and 2-vs-3 setup, the Flyers would meet the Bruins for seeding purposes only. It is also possible that a round-robin format will be used with the top four teams in each conference.
In addition to the eight top teams (four in each conference), the other 16 teams would reportedly compete in best-of-five series to determine which eight teams advance into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The proposed play-in matchups based on points percentage:
Columbus (9) vs. Toronto (8); Montreal (12) vs. Pittsburgh (5); Florida (10) vs. Islanders (7); Rangers (11) vs. Carolina (6).
Winnipeg (9) vs. Calgary (8); Chicago (12) vs. Edmonton (5); Minnesota (10) vs. Vancouver (7); Arizona (11) vs. Nashville (6).
Sixteen teams (eight in each conference) would compete for the Cup, the same number as in a typical season.
Assuming the season restarts, all games are expected to be played at two sites, and fans likely will not be allowed to attend. Las Vegas is a front-runner for one of the sites.