In the rare cases when there are no Stanley Cup playoffs, the 12-team field automatically goes to the league’s conference champion for its season finale on the final day of the regular season. But that practice, in place since 2005, may be endangered in 2019 as the NHL ponders the health of the game amid its own pandemic outbreak.
Migraines and fatigue that start in October have been recorded in a growing number of people since around September 2014, when several swine flu outbreaks were reported. Now, experts say they are monitoring the flu more closely because people may be falling ill more frequently. More than 95 million Americans will be affected this year by flu-related symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.
In the absence of any flu-related incidents in the year-end playoffs, people will pay close attention to any incident that happens in the final games. Take the Stanley Cup clinching match between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in 2014, which was halted with one second left to play and players on the ice’s hard surface literally falling onto the ice.