Bettman Lays Out Possible Plans for NHL Season Resumption

Nicholas J. Cotsonika wrote an article on NHL.com today detailing an interview NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman did on Sportsnet earlier in the day.

The Commissioner said that there are a few scenarios where the 2019-20 season would continue. The season was paused on March 12 due to coronavirus pandemic concerns. One of those scenarios would include four neutral site arenas hosting “three games each per day without fans” in attendance.

Bettman told Sportsnet “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 [Stanley Cup Playoffs] the way we normally play them.”

In his interview, Bettman stressed that “if we can’t do it perfect, we’re going to have to figure out what’s next to perfect.”

Cotsonika said that the league has vetoed playing in what Bettman called “small college rink[s] in the middle of a smaller community” because the arenas need to be up to NHL standards, which, obviously, only NHL rinks are equipped for.

On that, Bettman pointed out that there need to be “multiple locker rooms” and that the technology has to be there as well as the procedures, the glass, the boards and the video replay and broadcasting facilities.

Cotsonika quoted Bettman as saying that the “NHL would need four NHL-caliber locker rooms in each arena, because if it plays three games per day in one arena, it would need to use appropriate sanitizing procedures as teams move in and out.”

As mentioned, the league is shooting for four arenas, but that number has not been finalized. Bettman said that it could be as few as two cities hosting these games. He said: “it’s not something that we can predict right at this moment. But this is part of the contingencies. It doesn’t necessarily have to be by division, although the centralization may be by division.”

He did mention that “the particular location could be anywhere that isn’t a hot spot” thereby most likely ruling out the New York/New Jersey and Philadelphia markets since this area has one of the highest infection rates in the country.

Bettman said that the facilities would have to be in an area close to practice facilities because, if you are bringing the teams in for games, they will need to practice.

Cotsonika said that “the NHL has recommended players and staff self-quarantine through April 30. The first step toward resuming the season would be for players to work out at team facilities. The next step would be a training camp, which Commissioner Bettman said, based on a conversation with players and the NHL Players’ Association, would need to be at least three weeks.”

Bettman feels no pressure to be the first of the North American pro sports leagues to get up and running said Cotsonika. “This isn’t a race,” Bettman said. “The stakes are too important.”

The league is listening to the authorities too. “The decision ultimately will be made by medical people and people who are in governments at all different levels, so we’re not going to try and od anything that flies in the face of what we’re being told is appropriate.”

The league floated out an idea to have the 2020 NHL Entry Draft take place before the 2019-20 season ends. It would take place as scheduled in June. But, according to Bettman, “no decision has been made.”

The Draft proposal, as Cotsonika pointed out, has some problems, “such as determining the draft order and what to do with certain contingent draft picks. But waiting months to hold the draft would present another set of problems.”

Bettman pointed out that they need “to look at all of the options, balance them and try to make a good judgment, and we’re doing it with the feedback from our clubs, obviously.”

Overall, the NHL is simply looking for options. As Bettman said, “we’re not sitting around on our own saying, ‘This is what we’re doing, period.’”

The NHL and the Commissioner seem to want to play into the summer if they have to. They also want to play next season, as Bettman mentioned that that is what “we intend to do in its entirety, starting later.” He did say that they also have “a great deal of flexibility, and we’re not going to rush anything.” They will do what is sensible while also trying to get hockey in.

Brodeur Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

The Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2018 was announced today and to the surprise of almost no one, Martin Brodeur will now be taking his rightful place in Toronto.

Marty goes in in his first year of eligibility and was about as much of a shoo in you could get. He will be joined by five other new members when he goes in officially at the enshrinement ceremony in November. They are Builders Gary Bettman (the NHL Commissioner from 1993 to present) and the much-deserving Willie O’Ree (who broke the NHL’s color barrier back on January 18, 1958 with the Boston Bruins) and, in the Players category: Alexander Yakushev (a Soviet-era Russian star who won two Olympic gold medals in 1972 and 1976), Martin St. Louis (another first ballot enshrinee who won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 after going undrafted by an NHL team) and female player Jayna Hefford (who won four Olympic gold medals for Canada in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014). They will also be joined by Maple Leafs broadcaster Joe Bowen, who was given the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award (“outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster”) and Larry Brooks of the New York Post, who won the Elmer Ferguson Award “for excellence in hockey journalism.”

Marty will go in as the all-time NHL leader in wins, shutouts, games played, saves, minutes played, 30-win seasons as well as consecutive 30-win seasons, consecutive 35-win seasons, 40-win seasons and consecutive 40-win seasons for a goaltender to go along with three Stanley Cups with the Devils. (All of these stats come from Dan Rosen of NHL.com.) He also has his number retired by the Devils and a statue in front of Prudential Center. He currently serves as an assistant GM and goaltending coach for the St. Louis Blues.

Marty was also one of the greatest puck handling goalies of all time. He has three goals to his credit (including one in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens in 1997) and 45 regular season assists (he had 12 assists in the playoffs). In addition, the trapezoid behind the net in the NHL was implemented to curb goalies from stickhandling the puck too much, mostly due to Brodeur’s skills.

Marty also has the Calder Trophy as the 1994 NHL Rookie of the Year under his belt along with four Vezina Trophies (2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008) and five William M. Jennings Trophies (“fewest goals against in a season with a minimum of 25 appearances) won in 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2010. According to Rosen, Marty also “shares the record for most wins in a season (48) with Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.” Marty did it in 2006-07.

The induction ceremony will take place November 12 in Toronto at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Marty and all of the inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame for 2018. Marty truly is better on this day.