It’s a new week, which means new ideas for the NHL to explore with in order to figure out a proper and safe way to resume the 2019-20 season.
On Monday, Commissioner Gary Bettman was part of the Leaders Week sports business conference and discussed the many issues the league and the Players’ Association are facing. As that work continues, nothing can be implemented until a green light is given by medical professionals and local governments.
“I don’t think anybody has a fixed timetable, particularly in North America right now,” Bettman said, via Nick Cotsonika of NHL.com. “We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.”
The hub city idea continues to be discussed and it appears like the league will end up going with two locations. According Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Las Vegas and Columbus have emerged as favorites as they represent the two conferences. Bettman said “probably eight of nine different places” that can handle “a dozen or so teams in one location” are being considered.
Any potential spots would need adequate hotel space, proper rink accommodations and the capacity for coronavirus testing for all personnel involved.
“I am told that there can be enough capacity, and certainly over the next couple of months, there will be more capacity,” Commissioner Bettman said. “But that is a fundamental question, and we certainly can’t be jumping the line in front of medical needs.”
If and when play does resume, a 24-team playoff is looking likely, with the possibility of play-in games. The NHL-NHLPA Return to Play committee spoke over the weekend with talks expected to continue this week.
Bettman said last week that canceling the rest of the season has not been considered. If the play resumes over the summer, then the league is prepared to begin a full 2020-21 schedule as late as December.
“We’d like to complete this season,” Bettman said. “We’d like to award the Stanley Cup, the most treasured trophy and the most historic trophy in all of sports. And our fans are telling us overwhelmingly that’s what they’d like us to do, because people have an emotional investment in this season already.”