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.