Hit enter after type your search item
Home / Toronto / News / COVID-19 / NHL could resume season in July playing all games in just 4 cities

NHL could resume season in July playing all games in just 4 cities


TORONTO, ON., APRIL 22, 2020 – During an online interview on In Conversation with Ron MacLean, NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman conveyed that the NHL is cautiously optimistic about resuming the regular season in July and playing 3 games a day in each of 4 cities yet to be determined.

“In the final analysis we are hopeful that by doing the right things in the short term that we will be able to come back and hopefully complete this season on some basis that is fair and has integrity. And anything we are going to do will be for the right reasons and at the right time.”

Commissioner Bettman wanted to first reaffirm the NHL’s stance on COVID-19, saying that “Nothing is more important than everybody’s health and well-being and any decisions we’re making and anything we are considering doing, starts with health and well-being whether it’s the players or other personnel, the fans or our communities at large.”

Ron MacLean asked the commish “where are we now maybe versus one week or two weeks ago?”

Bettman said the league is modelling and trying to see what the options will be in whatever scenario may unfold. He said the decision is ultimately made by the government and health officials and that the league isn’t going to do anything against whatever is deemed appropriate.

There are many things to look at says Bettman, in terms of “Whether or not we play out the rest of the regular season on some basis. Whether or not we play the playoffs as we normally do, or on an expanded basis, whether or not there are going to be fans in the building, along with how we deal with all of our partners, media,… and how we continue to interact with our fans.”

“Clearly we can play into the summer,” said Bettman “and clearly we can play next season, which we intend to do in its entirety starting later.” The Commissioner also said that the NHL has a great deal of flexbility with timing options and they are not going to rush into everthing or do anything crazy.

In Conversation with Ron MacLean interviewing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about the possible restart of the NHL season as well as sharing a state of the nation for the NHL.

In terms of conditioning concerns, Bettman said the players will not be playing games that matter until they are in game shape. He pointed out as all fans and athletes know that players can do a lot of strength and conditioning at home but it is not replacement for being in game shape.

“The fact is none of our guys have really been on skates and we are going to have to make sure they are in game ready condition because we don’t want to put them on the ice and have them risk injury and their careers,” Bettman told MacLean.

“We’re gonna need time to come back right,” said Bettman when asked if there is a pressure or rush to get the game back on the ice before or at the same time as the other big leagues. “We’re over a hundred years old as a league. We’re not going anywhere. We want to to make sure we are doing the right things.”

Three weeks of training camp are in order before things get rolling, most importantly so no one gets hurt, Bettman said.

Bettman said the league is looking at potentially as many as four locations because they need a lot of ice. He also said the league examined the option of playing at smaller college-type venues in smaller communities but concluded it just isn’t possible because they are not set up for all the proceedings that go on behind the scenes at an NHL game. He said they would need at least four NHL-calibre locker rooms because of the number of games happening per day, as the technology, the procedures, the boards and glass, the video replay, sanitizing procedures, the broadcasting facilities those are the things needed if the league is going to to come back in a centralized basis playing multiple games per day.

If the centralised model is what the NHL goes with, the location of the arenas could be anywhere that isn’t a hot spot presumably in terms number of COVID-19 cases, and it won’t necessarily be based on divisions. It was suggested that there might be one centralized arena for each division but Bettman shot that down saying it may not necessarily be the case. For starters the arenas also need to have practice facilities for 7 or 8 teams nearby.

The league had played about 85% of the season with about 189 games remaining on the schedule before the COVID-19 ‘pause’.

Another interesting tidbit that Ron MacLean points out in the interview that makes NHL arenas better suited venues while there are still concerns about the spread of COVID-19, is that many of the NHL dressing rooms can be locked down and sanitized by heating them up and killing all the germs.

The fact is that all levels of government need to agree with whatever NHL model is being proposed. And of course the ideal model for the NHL is to complete the regular season and play the playoffs as normal.

Gary Bettman also said they have not made any decisions regarding the June draft because there are numerous ramifications, primarily how it is determined by where teams finish and the lottery.

Meanwhile the NHL.com along with Sportsnet, NBC and other networks and platforms are creating tons of online and social media content, to make fans smile, continue to feel the connection to the game and enabling fans to experience the personalities of the players more than ever before.

But the conclusion being drawn by the NHL and all leagues is that sports is missed greatly during this coronavirus crisis, and sports is incredibly valuable as content on whatever platform. Bettman also said the really exciting thing that has come out of the pause in sports is that players have become more comfortable putting themselves out there and connecting with fans more often on social media.

There is no doubt the fans are enjoying the up close online visits to players’ homes and getting to know more about who they are as people rather than just as their untouchable heroes on the ice.

story by Terry Lankstead

You might also like these stories from TO TIMES

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar