Blackhawks may conclude rest of regular season in Minnesota this summer, per reports

The NHL is reportedly now considering resuming the postponed regular season with each division playing all its games in one city.

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The Blackhawks may spend a lot more time in Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center this year than they expected.

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The Blackhawks may play more hockey in the 2019-20 NHL season after all, but it likely won’t be in Chicago.

A new blueprint for concluding the paused regular season and conducting the Stanley Cup Playoffs is gaining steam, and early indications are that it would send the Hawks and the rest of the Central Division to Minnesota for the summer.

Multiple reports by Sportsnet and ESPN on Tuesday and Wednesday indicate that the NHL hopes to select one arena per division to host all of that division’s games. The Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota —home of the Wild —is the frontrunner for the Central.

Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, is reportedly the frontrunner to host the Oilers and the rest of the Pacific Division, and PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., is the frontrunner to host the Hurricanes and the rest of the Metropolitan Division. A potential host for the Atlantic Division — oddly organized with Tampa Bay, Florida, Buffalo, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Detroit —has yet to be determined.

Florida Panthers president Matthew Caldwell was the first NHL representative to talk publicly about the possible new format, telling reporters on a Wednesday conference call that the league is targeting a June training camp and a July regular season resumption.

“When we feel that players are safe, and we have enough testing and we have enough ways to get back on the ice, for us it’s probably going to be contained at playing at four or five neutral sites,” Caldwell added. “So that’s all being discussed right now. My guess is that we would start with limited fans or empty arenas, so just with the teams and the associated staffs.”

If it comes to fruition, the Hawks would end up spending a lot more time in Minnesota than they expected to this season. They lost, 3-2 in overtime, there on February 4; they had one more scheduled trip on March 19 canceled by the pandemic.

But they also had 11 other games canceled by the pandemic, and only three of those were against divisional opponents. So the resumed regular season schedule would evidently need to change greatly, and a lot of questions remain about how that could be done evenly.

The playoff format —and the number of teams included —also remains unclear. The Hawks had largely fallen out of the eight-teams-per-conference race by mid-March, but an expanded playoff field could theoretically put them back in the mix.

Meanwhile, a previously discussed plan that would’ve staged the entire NHL season in one neutral location, with reported options including North Dakota or New Hampshire, has reportedly now been ruled out.

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