MX23RW : Thursday, August 5 13:29:34| >> :600:37605829:37605829:

NHL ends regular season and announces playoff plan

The Covid-19 pandemic paused play in the league on March 12.

The NHL has announced its 2019-20 regular season has ended and it plans to play the Stanley Cup play-offs in two cities which have yet to be chosen.

The season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, with the league planning for the top 12 qualifying teams from the Eastern and Western conferences to progress to the post-season based on their points percentage on that date.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the return-to-play plan was determined in response to fan demand and with consideration for the safety of players.

"While nothing is without risk, ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so," Bettman said in a video statement.

"Let me assure you that the reason we are doing this is because our fans have told us in overwhelming numbers that they want to complete the season if at all possible. And our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion."

Each conference's top four teams by points percentage will play separate round-robin tournaments to determine their seeding, with the remaining 16 teams seeded by conference in best-of-five series.

Each conference will have one city – from a shortlist of Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St Paul, Toronto and Vancouver – act as host during the play-offs.

The league said each team will be allowed a limited number of personnel travelling to their hub city, where there will be a comprehensive system for virus testing in place.

The plan was devised by five current players as well as executives from the league and the NHL Players' Association.

The seven teams who did not make the post-season will enter the NHL Draft lottery ahead of the 2020-21 season.

The league is at phase one of its plan, which involves teams self-isolating as much as possible. The NHL hopes to eventually move to phase four, in which teams would travel to their hub cities and play resume, potentially in the summer.

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Today's Olympic highlights header

Thursday's key events

· The women's heptathlon continues with the long jump, javelin and 800m, with Katarina Johnson-Thompson now out of contention following an injury (1.10am-1.40pm)
· Andrew Pozzi pursues his dream of an Olympic medal in the men's 110m hurdles final (3.55am)
· Tom Bosworth and Callum Wilkinson are among the British hopes in the men's 20km race walk (8.30am)
· Holly Bradshaw aims to improve on fifth in Rio to challenge Greece's Katerina Stefanidi and Anzhelika Sidorova of Russia for an unlikely medal in the women's pole vault (11am)
· London 2012 champion Kirani James goes up against current world champion Steven Gardiner in the men's 400m final (1pm)

· One of the toughest Olympic events takes place in Tokyo Bay as GB's Hector Pardoe takes on the men's 20km marathon swim (10.30pm Wed)

· Galal Yafai takes on takes on Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov for a spot in the gold medal bout of the fly (48kg-52kg) class (6.48am)

· Lois Toulson and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix (daughter of First Dates' Fred Sirieix) line up for the women's 10m platform (semi-final 2am; final 7am)

· Australia face Belgium in the men's final (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
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