Just two days after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league was “exploring all options,” he indicated on Wednesday morning that it’s looking more and more likely the winter sport will hit the ice over the summer.
“We’re focused on being as flexible and as agile as possible and when we get the opportunity from a health standpoint to bring our players together, to let our teams reconstitute themselves, to get operations up and running, we’ll be in a position to do that whenever it makes sense,” he told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo on “Mornings with Maria.” “We believe that we can be fairly flexible in terms of the calendar.
“My guess at this point is we’re probably going to be playing into the summer, which is something that we can certainly do.”
The NHL paused its 2019-20 season back on March 12, a day after the NBA did the same due to two players testing positive for COVID-19. Players were allowed to return home and the league recommended self-quarantining, which was extended to April 30 this week. Discussions have been ongoing since then regarding how, when and if the league will return to conclude the 2019-20 NHL regular season and decide a Stanley Cup champion. Bettman once again stressed the importance of the NHL returning only when the health risk for everyone attending games, from players to personnel to fans, is low.
“Before we can begin as a business standpoint we’ve got to be comfortable that we have the appropriate medical protocols in place because keep in mind, we’re going to have to have our players travel from virtually all over the world,” he said, when questioned about the possibility of using an antibody test or having temperatures being taken of players to reopen. “So when we decide it’s time to play we’ve got to be able to get everybody back and be comfortable that not only are we not infecting the population of players but that we’re not bringing the coronavirus from other places into jurisdictions where the players and other personnel are going.”
Bettman again mentioned that the NHL has been considering all roads and avenues when it comes to bringing the sport back, including looking into neutral sites hosting games and a two to three-week training camp to get players back in game shape; unless rehabbing an injury, players have not been able to lace up the skates since the season was put on hold. The biggest question mark that has arisen in the last month is just how the league will handle the standings; the NHL’s 31 teams played anywhere from 68 to 71 games of the 82-game schedule, with multiple franchises fighting for either a playoff spot or better odds in the draft lottery.
“Whatever we do to come back, and this is where I’m talking about being agile and flexible, we’re going to have to do something — whether it’s complete the regular season in whole or in part, whether or not it’s expanded playoffs — we’re going to have to do something that’s fair and has integrity,” Bettman noted, adding in that franchises have been lobbying for their choice regarding how to handle the situation. “That’s going to be very important no matter what it is we do and we’re considering all of the alternatives.
“Nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out.”
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