TORONTO - The UUHA's Board of Given'ers has agreed to try out a new playoff format that will see the top-seeded teams choose their opponents for the opening round of the 2018 Playoffs. Inspired by a recent, similar move on the part of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), the decision was made at last week's Winter Meeting of the UUHA BoG, which took place in the luxurious and well-appointed confines of McCormick Arena's Nixon Room.
According to the new format, the team finishing in 1st place in the 2017/18 Regular Season standings (currently occupied by the Jokers) will, rather than automatically being paired with the 8th place team, be afforded the opportunity to select any other UUHA team to face in the opening round of the 2018 Playoffs. (That opening round, incidentally, remains a two-game, first-to-three-points affair, after which the two teams move on to a winners or losers bracket, depending on the outcome.) After the 1st place team has selected an opponent, the next highest finishing team will select an opponent from any of the remaining teams, until all four pairings have been made. Unlikely though the scenario may be, the 1st place team could even select the 2nd place team as their opening round opponent, just to shake things up. In the event of that transpiring, the team finishing the Regular Season in 3rd spot overall would then select its opponent, and so on. The format has the potential to stoke rivalries and create some compelling storylines, however, many observers expect the opening-round pairings to ultimately reflect the standard 1st vs. 8th, 2nd vs. 7th (etc.) pattern. Opening round selections will be made no later than noon on Sunday, Feb. 18 (the day after the final games of the 2017/18 Regular Season). Team pairings for the remainder of the 2018 UUHA Playoffs will, like the SPHL model, revert to seedings based on final Regular Season standings.
Depending on how the new format is received, it may or may not be implemented for future UUHA seasons. Additionally, other playoff format tweaks are currently under consideration by the UUHA BoG, including a 'Backdoor' provision that would afford a second opportunity for opening round losers to win their way back into contention for the Championship Final.
The SPHL is a 10-team professional hockey league based in Huntersville, North Carolina. Founded in 2004, the SPHL was the first league to introduce 3-on-3 overtime - a concepts initially derided by other pro leagues, but eventually adopted by the NHL. The current SPHL champions are the Macon Mayhem.