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Hermantown native Neal Pionk eager to get back for NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

DULUTH, Minn. -- After over two months off, Neal Pionk says he is excited to return to competitive hockey with the Winnipeg Jets.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a four phase plan on Tuesday to resume play at some point this summer.

Prior to playing in the NHL, Neal was a standout defenseman with the Hermantown Hawks, and UMD Bulldogs.

Pionk is about a year removed from being traded from the New York Rangers to the Jets. Winnipeg is one of 24 teams that will potentially be returning, in an expanded playoff format.

"We had a conversation I think a week ago via group text about the potential return to play scenarios and what we thought was fair. And this was all, it's still hypothetical so it's kind of crazy but we kind of had to come up with an idea of what we thought was fair," said Pionk.

"Everyone is texting me- 'Oh when are you leaving, when are you leaving?' and I said, it's not even a for sure thing. Obviously I think it's a good thing that they put a plan in place, for a lot of people it's a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. But at the same time, it's still a plan, there's no date set there's no formal anything. We still have a lot of waiting to do, but it is still kind of exciting that they rolled it out."

Pionk and the Jets will take on the Calgary Flames in a best-of-five qualifying round series once play resumes.

Matt Halverson

Sports Anchor and Reporter

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