It was the beginning of March 2020. While the threat of coronavirus loomed, things proceeded mostly as normal. The NHL season was about a month away from the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and a league away, the NBA season was about a month shy of the start of their postseason. The MLB was about to begin their preseason games, and March Madness was about to begin. However, by the second week of March, some new, local rules were put in place that hinted that things would soon change. Due to the local rules in Columbus and San Jose regarding large events, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the San Jose Sharks were prepared to play games with no fans in attendance. Then March 11 happened. Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, and NCAA March Madness and MLB Spring Training were canceled in quick response. The NHL and NBA also put their seasons on pause.
The NHL’s goal was “to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we [would] be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup.” The date that it was decided “appropriate and prudent” to resume play was on Aug. 1. The season resumed then with the top four teams from each conference playing a round-robin style tournament against each other that determined playoff seeding. After this was complete, the top eight teams from the Eastern Conference and the top eight teams from the Western Conference entered the playoffs. From seed one through eight, the Eastern Conference teams that made the postseason were the Philadelphia Flyers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Washington Capitals, the Boston Bruins, the Carolina Hurricanes, the New York Islanders, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Montreal Canadians. From seed one through eight, the Western Conference teams that made the postseason were the Vegas Golden Knights, the Colorado Avalanche, the Dallas Stars, the St. Louis Blues, the Vancouver Canucks, the Calgary Flames, the Arizona Coyotes, and the Chicago Blackhawks.
In the conference finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders to win first place in the Eastern Conference, and the Dallas Stars beat the Vegas Golden Knights to win first place in the Western Conference. Dallas and Tampa Bay split the first two games of the Stanley Cup, but in the next three games, the Lightning won two and the Stars won one. That set up for a pivotal game six, which Tampa Bay won by a score of 2-0 over Dallas. Speaking to the media after the game six Stanley Cup Finals win, Braden Point said, “We just had belief. We believed we could do it. We stuck to our system, never got too high, never got too low, and the result is the Cup. Couldn’t be happier.” It was a dream season for Tampa Bay who won their first Stanley Cup since 2004. Pat Maroon who won the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues last season remarked, “Most people don’t get the chance to play in the Stanley Cup Final. I got to go back-to-back and win, so I got the chills talking about this. What an amazing feeling.” While the start date of next season is still being determined, as of now, the NHL is planning to play the entire 82 game regular season next year, but that is subject to change.