In trying to resume this season, NHL’s priority is also maintaining full 2020-21 season

Daly Bettman NHL resumption not at cost of full 2020-21 season
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As the NHL mulls over ways to resume the 2019-20 season and/or postseason, Bill Daly notes that there’s a key emphasis: not taking away from a full 2020-21 season.

Daly says NHL resumption plans emphasize not taking away from full 2020-21 season

That’s what Daly told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside during their Two-Man Advantage podcast. Here’s the key quote, via the transcript of that interview (sub required):

“The only definite for us is we certainly don’t want to do anything around a resumption of play this season that will impact our ability to have a full season next year,” Daly said. “So that’s kind of the outside parameters and rules we’re following currently. Everything else is kind of up for grabs for lack of a better term. There are lots of possibilities. We do have people working internally on those scenarios and what they look like and what the feasibility is.”

During other parts of that interview, and in other media appearances, Daly emphasizes how “fluid” this situation really is.

It’s an opportunity, honestly, to reflect upon how rapidly things escalate in 2020. It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t even been a full week since the NHL “paused” its 2019-20 season, but it’s true. (That happened last Thursday.)

Finding right balance would be difficult if it means an 82-game 2020-21 season is mandatory

If the NHL is steadfast in maintaining a full 82-game season for 2020-21, then they’re going to face a difficult juggling act. Particularly if they don’t want to jump quickly to a playoff scenario when play does resume, particularly a full four-round postseason, and the substantial allotment of time required by such a tournament.

Daly detailed just how many hurdles different plans would need to clear during that interview with Burnside and LeBrun.

“ … Obviously you have network partner obligations that we have to take into account,” Daly said. “And then we have to work through with the Players’ Association what the critical date calendar looks like. We need to work with our clubs on building availabilities. We have to consider whether a resumption of play is to a building that’s open to the public versus perhaps a resumption of play that doesn’t involve a building that’s open to the public. So these are all relevant considerations and variables none of which you can really align at this point behind a specific plan. So, it, like the situation generally, is very fluid.”

Indeed, when we gripe about a team’s imbalanced, road-heavy schedule, we often forget that arenas aren’t open 365 days a year (or 366 in a leap year, like 2020) to hockey. Getting dates lined up isn’t necessarily automatic, and stands as another obstacle in making plans.

That’s a hurdle that can be cleared, mind you, but that exertion can’t be ignored. And the point is that there are many of them.

How might this affect the draft lottery, and 2020 NHL Draft itself? What about training camps, free agency, and needed rest for players? Squeezing things too tight could substantially increase injury risks.

Many of us would like to see the NHL chop down the number of games in a season, but then there’s box office revenue to consider, not to mention the salary cap.

It’s all a lot to digest, whether you roll with the August to September plan being pitched or some other idea. Demanding an 82-game season in 2020-21 only makes it tougher, but it also might be needed for the league.

Getting it all settled in a week doesn’t seem realistic, especially when the world is still gauging the scale of the coronavirus pandemic. As Daly said, the situation remains very fluid.

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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