Gary Bettman

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NHL Board of Governors conference call reportedly set for Monday

The NHL Board of Governors will hold a conference call on Monday afternoon, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun.

Dreger fills in many of the details:

  • Financial issues are going to be the primary focus.
  • Expanding upon that, there’s the potential for escrow to be discussed.
  • Covering various aspects of the CBA, likely in tandem with the NHLPA, will be part of the primary agenda.

Dreger notes that “everyone is deep in the process of contingency financial planning.”

During a recent Insider Trading, Dreger estimated that the NHL could lose between $500 million and $1 billion depending upon how this goes.

NHL teams face challenging juggling act

In case those dollar amounts didn’t make it clear, the NHL faces a steep challenge.

It would be enough of a challenge merely to figure out how to set up a postseason, if that happened. But it’s not just about that. Bill Daly noted that the league is emphasizing keeping a full, 82-game 2020-21 season in any resumption plans.

The above financial concerns don’t just potentially put a dent in wallets. Depending upon how owners can work things out with the CBA, NHLPA, and other factors, the salary cap could be significantly affected.

And, again, even the more nuts-and-bolts stuff is tricky. If the season isn’t as much paused as it is powered off, how do you handle the draft lottery?

Monday’s afternoon meeting almost certainly won’t be able to check all of those boxes. Even so, there’s a decent chance that the NHL’s Board of Governors might find some answers, or at least get the ball rolling/puck moving.

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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.

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.

NHL allowing players to go back home, isolate until end of March

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The NHL is allowing players to go back to their home cities, per a league memo sent out on Monday.

Just two days ago, the league told their players to stay in their teams’ respective cities, but they’ve since made a significant change to that plan. The NHL is also telling players to self-quarantine until the end of March once they arrive at their home base.

This would indicate that the NHL realized that the season might not get going as quickly as they initially believed.

Here’s what the league announced:

1. Effective immediately, players can opt to return home (outside of the club’s home city, including outside of North America, to the extent flights are available).

2. The self-quarantine period should continue within the player’s home through and including Friday, March 27, unless a longer period may be required in accordance with local mandates related to travel. Players should continue to report immediately any symptoms or testing results to club medical staff.

3. At the end of the self-quarantine period, and depending on world developments between now and then, consideration will be given to allowing the opening of club facilities to players in scheduled and coordinated small groups for voluntary training and care of the players on the same basis as in the off-season.

4. Our objective will be that, in addition to continuing regular updates, we will be able to provide high-level guidance on the potential of opening a training camp period roughly 45 days into the 60-day period covered by the CDC’s directive.

Ideally, a plan might be for camps to re-open in late-April. Planning to re-open is great, but the reality is that there’s no guarantee they will be able to do so.

This change comes just hours after the CDC recommended that all public events involving 50 people or more be put on hold for the next eight weeks.

“CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers … cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States,” it said, per the Associated Press. “Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing.”

It’s okay to ask players, especially those living away from family, to stay and wait for a little while. But preventing them from going home, while the NHL season is paused wouldn’t have made much sense.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Biggest questions for NHL during coronavirus pause

Biggest questions facing NHL coronavirus pause morning skate
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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Elliotte Friedman goes into great detail exploring the biggest questions the NHL is facing regarding the coronavirus, and suspension of its season. What would it take to resume play, and how might that look? Also, what about the salary cap, and the 2020-21 season? These questions need answers, and they haven’t been provided yet, but Friedman provides insight on the biggest questions the NHL faces. (Sportsnet)

• NHLers will be paid their final three checks, even though the season has been suspended (or “paused”). This decision is more complicated than it may seem at first. (ESPN)

• An “FAQ” about the pause for the coronavirus, via the league’s website. (NHL)

• Senators fans might agonize over how the NHL handles the draft lottery. (Sportsnet)

• Tuesday could be big as far as IIHF decisionmakers possibly canceling the 2020 World Championships. (Swiss Hockey News.ch)

• Remembering “Bad” Joe Hall, who died during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

• K’Andre Miller reportedly signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers. The Rangers drafted Miller 22nd overall in 2018. Miller, 20, spent the past two seasons with the University of Wisconsin. (Wisconsin State Journal)

• Speaking of NCAA Hockey, Michigan ranks as just one hockey team struggling to comprehend a season screeching to a halt. Michigan coach Mel Pearson said that telling players was “the hardest day I’ve ever had to address a team that the season is over.” (The Detroit News)

• An abstract idea for No. 1-ranked North Dakota to recognize the 2019-20 season. (Grand Forks Herald)

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.

Bettman: NHL players in isolation while season is on hold

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NHL players are staying away from rinks and self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic that has put their season on hold.

Players have been instructed to remain at home in their team’s city and avoid practice facilities and crowded places. Within the next two weeks, they could be allowed to return and skate and work out in small groups while games are not being played.

”What we now asked our clubs and our players to do is to go home, isolate to the extent possible for the next few days,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday. ”How many days exactly we’re working on with the medical people. And then we’ll be looking to progress in terms of activities once we get a handle on whether or not anybody in the short term is going to test positive.”

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association laid out more specific guidelines and sent them to players and teams in a memo read to The Associated Press by a person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the memo is private.

The memo states team facilities are currently closed to players, except those requiring treatment for what the memo refers to as ”disabling injuries.” The next step, following the direction of health officials, would be opening the facilities and allowing players to skate and work out in small groups.

Idealistically, NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said team facilities would open to players by next week, though he noted there are variables that could push back that timeline.

”I think we’re in a let’s relax and take stock of where we are (mode).” Fehr said. ”You do as much as you can as soon as you can when conditions permit. But I’m not going to try and guess when that will be. It’ll be as soon as you can.”

There’s no timetable on when games might resume.

Agent Pat Brisson, who represents Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby and others, is advising his clients to be safe and take precautions but also open-minded and positive.

”At the end of the day, I do believe we will continue,” Brisson told The AP. ”It’s a time to also reflect, whether we have four or five days or a week, you can relax, recharge, recover and re-align yourself and reset.”

After announcing Thursday the season would be put on ”pause,” Bettman remains optimistic of resuming play and eventually awarding the Stanley Cup.

”That would be the goal,” Bettman said in a phone interview with The AP and the NHL’s website. ”Health, safety, well-being of the NHL family, especially and including our fans, is most important. If the business considerations and the money were the only thing, then we and a bunch of others would keep playing.”

Bettman and Fehr each independently said they were not aware of any player testing positive for the new coronavirus. They added they can’t be certain no one is feeling ill or awaiting test results.

A spokesman for the Carolina Hurricanes said broadcaster John Forslund was feeling fine and had not been tested but was self-isolating after using a hotel room previously occupied by someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA’s Utah Jazz, who had players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell test positive, were at the hotel just before the Hurricanes.

It was Gobert’s positive coronavirus test prior to a game Wednesday night that shifted talk from playing in empty arenas to postponing entirely. Bettman told owners the first positive test result by any player would mean ”all bets are off.” There are some 700 players among the 31 NHL teams across North America.

”It was clear to me that no matter what scenario we came up with that we continued to play with, either with or without fans, it was inconceivable, certainly unlikely, that we were going to get through the rest of the regular season at minimum without somebody testing positive,” Bettman said.

Unlike NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who said his league’s season would be suspended at least 30 days, Bettman would not put a timeframe on the NHL hiatus. The Stanley Cup is typically awarded in early June after two months of playoff games.

”I think the scope of what this is still unknown to all of us,” agent Stephen Bartlett told The AP. ”I think the only thing that we can counsel people is to take a deep breath and take whatever steps necessary and prudent to keep yourself healthy. And rest assured, especially for our athlete population, that those guys are in the very best of shape.”

Players are in midseason shape with roughly a dozen games left before the playoffs.

”It’s very difficult for the players, but at the same time, you have to also appreciate what’s going on in society,” agent Allan Walsh said. ”The players do realize that we’re dealing with a life and death situation for many.”

Players seem to be on board with the NHL’s response. San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane tweeted the NHL ”has done the right thing in taking this pause to help the risk of spreading this virus.”

Bettman said it is not the NHL’s independent call when to resume play and did not rule out the possibility of games in empty arenas. Fehr expects any decisions on returning to play to be a joint effort between the league and NHLPA.

”During this period, everybody’s trying to do the best they can and to work things out so that we can stay on the same page and make the resumption of play as smooth as possible,” Fehr said.

No one really knows what that’ll look like. The NHL is working on a variety of contingency plans, all of which include trying to play a full 82-game season in 2020-21 – even if that means starting later.

”This is a rapidly evolving situation and there are a lot of unknowns and we’ve got to make sure that we understand all the ramifications of everything that’s coming at us and how we respond,” Bettman said.” And most of all, we want to do the right things and use common sense.”