(Vancouver Canucks / Instagram)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Tuesday that the league is planning a 24-team Return to Play format.

Although there is no exact date for resumption of play, the first phase could see players return to their respective team cities by mid-June.

Bettman says he does not believe training camps will open before the first half of July, meaning if camps last three weeks, the season will likely not resume until August, should it be deemed safe to play at that time.

He also added that the Return to Play Committee is still debating whether the format/playoffs will use re-seeding or bracketing.

As a part of his announcement, the commissioner also revealed that the league will be returning to play in two hub cities, with Vancouver shortlisted as a possibility for one of them.

Aside from Vancouver, other candidates include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.

The final determination on hub cities will depend on COVID-19 conditions, testing availability, as well as government regulations.

The NHLPA Executive Board gave the go ahead on a 24-team Return to Play proposal last week, and the league released a memo Monday announcing it is targeting early June as the start date of Phase 2 of its Return to Play plan.

This includes the opening of practice rinks for small, voluntary group workouts on and off the ice.

If the Phase 2 plan gets the green light, on-ice sessions will be non-contact and involve up to six players, who will be expected to maintain physical distancing at all times.

Additionally, coaches will be allowed to watch but not participate in skates or workouts.

The NHL originally paused its regular season on March 12th due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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