The NHL’s pause is now about six weeks old. Since the moment the league released a statement putting the 2019-20 season on hold, rumors have swirled regarding how and when players will hit the ice again.
In a candid one-on-one with Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean on Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the league is looking at utilizing NHL cities to continue the season and conduct the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Among the scenarios we’re looking at is potentially as many as four (cities) because we need a lot of ice,” Bettman said, adding that “the particular location could be anywhere that isn’t a (COVID-19) hot spot and has what we need both in terms of the arena and having practice facilities because if you bring in seven or eight clubs to a particular facility and you’re playing lots of games on a regular basis without travel, there does need to be ice for practice.”
Greg Wyshynski reported that sources told ESPN that Carolina (Metropolitan Division), Edmonton (Pacific) and Minnesota (Central) were among the favorites to host games, with an Atlantic Division location still to be discussed.
Previously, neutral sites such as North Dakota and New Hampshire were reportedly under consideration; however, Bettman stressed the need for NHL-caliber facilities to handle the teams. He noted four locker rooms will be needed because of sanitization procedures that will be required after a team vacates a room, and to ensure a smooth process for what is expected to be back-to-back-to-back games.
“We’ve also concluded, and I know there’s been a lot of rumors about this, we can’t play in a small college rink in the middle of a smaller community because if we’re going to be centralized, we need the back of the house that NHL arenas provide, whether it’s multiple locker rooms, whether it’s the technology, the procedures, the boards and glass, the video replay, the broadcasting facilities,” he noted. “Those are the things that are in place in NHL arenas and that’s what we’re going to ultimately need if we’re going to come back in a centralized basis and play multiple games a day.”
Bettman did stress the importance of completing the season the right way despite the dwindling time needed to finish. The 31 NHL teams have anywhere between 11 and 14 games remaining.
“If whatever we do is fair and has integrity, it will work,” the commissioner said.
Bettman also told McLean that “no decision” has been decided regarding the draft.
“We don’t live in a world of perfect anymore,” Bettman said. “We’re going to have to make adjustments. Ideally from our standpoint, and it would resolve a lot of issues, would be if we could complete the regular season, even if it’s on a centralized basis, and then go into the playoffs the way we normally play them. That would be ideal. But that’s one of the numerous models we’re looking at and if we can’t do ideal, if we can’t do perfect, we’re going to have to figure out what’s next to perfect.”
In the end, the expectation is the 2019-20 season will be completed in some fashion, especially with the league not bringing in any revenue at the moment. How that will look remains unknown. Bettman did stress the return will not be rushed and there will be “social distancing for a while . . . there’ll be masks, there’ll be Purell, there’ll be lots of things.” There probably won’t be fans, though.
One positive note: All of the 2020-21 season will be played.
“Clearly we can play next season, which we intend to do in its entirety, starting later,” he said. “With a lot of timing options, we have a great deal of flexibility. And we’re not going to rush anything. We’re not going to do anything that’s crazy. We’re going to try and do something under the circumstances at the time that is sensible.”
Source: Read Full Article