Spokane native, NHL forward Derek Ryan likes the league’s return-to-play format

SPOKANE, Wash. — Before he was a forward in the NHL, Derek Ryan was a Shadle Park Highlander and a Spokane Chief for several seasons. He knows Spokane well, and returned home when the NHL’s season was put on pause.

We caught up with him over Zoom, and he’s pleased with how the league planned to return to play after the COVID-19 shutdown of sports. His Calgary Flames will be a No. 8 seed in the West as a qualifier, and will match up against the No. 9-seed Winnipeg Jets.

More information on the return to play in the NHL is provided by the Associated Press:

Setting a July 10 start for camps allows players to make arrangements to return to their home cities in light of quarantine regulations in the U.S. and Canada. Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently 17% of the league’s players were overseas.

“It’s obviously very helpful having the dates,” Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said. “To go that long without any news or hard information in terms of a start time, it is tough, but I think it’s rolling now and hopefully now we can keep going in the right direction.”

Players were allowed to resume small-group, voluntary workouts and teams could open their training facilities Monday. Groups of players began skating this week, while others were waiting for a firm timeline to ramp up for games.

Under the format devised by the Return to Play committee, the top four teams in each conference advance to the round of 16 and play separate round-robin tournaments to determine seeding. The other 16 teams play best-of-five series.

“It’s obviously not a typical schedule that we would be accustomed to,” New York Islanders forward Josh Bailey said earlier this week. “This year you’re not going to be going into training camp and the first game of the season. You’re going into playoffs.”

In Canada, British Columbia Premier John Horgan said the province and its top doctor have approved a proposal for the NHL to make Vancouver a possible hockey hub city during the pandemic.

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AP Sports Writer Jay Cohen in Chicago contributed this report.