The NHL is planning to come back in a BIG way ... so says commish Gary Bettman, who just announced the league is looking to return this summer with an insane 24-team playoff!!!
The 67-year-old just revealed the plans ... outlining hockey's steps to resume play after it suspended action back in March over the coronavirus pandemic.
Bettman says the league is working on finalizing details ... but right now, the plan is for the regular season to be ruled officially over -- with only the top-12 teams in each conference returning to action for postseason play this summer.
FYI, there are only 31 teams in the NHL -- so how bad would that suck to be one of the 7 teams that didn't make the cut?!
(California would get skunked BTW -- the L.A. Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks are the 3 worst teams in the West).
Training camps to prepare for the 24-team playoff would begin on July 1 under the new plan, Bettman says ... and the league is gunning to put all the action in two hub cities -- one in the East and one in the West.
Bettman stressed the league is taking all steps necessary to keep its players and staff healthy in a return to rinks, saying, "Ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so."
Bettman says the top-4 teams in each conference will get automatic bids to the 1st-round of official playoff play ... and will face each other in round-robin games to determine seeding.
As for the other 8 teams in the conference, Bettman says they'll square off in head-to-head series to determine which 4 will move on to face the top 4 seeds.
Bettman's plan would allow the league to crown a Stanley Cup champion sometime this fall.