The league has discussed playing out the remainder of the season in ‘eight or nine’ locations along with a 24-team postseason.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was part of the Leaders Week sports business conference on Monday afternoon to discuss the various issues with resuming the 2019-20 regular season. Bettman stated that the NHL is currently considering “probably eight or nine different places” that can harbor “a dozen or so teams in one location.” While it appears the league is set on awarding the Stanley Cup this year, when the season could restart is still up in the air.
“I don’t think anybody has a fixed timetable, particularly in North America right now,” Bettman told Nick Cotsonika of NHL.com. “We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.”
According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson, Las Vegas and Columbus have emerged as the two favorites to host their respected conferences. If the NHL does decide to use hub cities, they would likely need to play multiple games per day, which could cause sanitation issues in the locker rooms. The league would also need to house teams in hotels and have the capacity to test all involved personnel for COVID-19.
“I am told that there can be enough capacity, and certainly over the next couple of months, there will be more capacity,” Bettman said. “But that is a fundamental question, and we certainly can’t be jumping the line in front of medical needs.”
If the NHL does succeed in resuming the season, they would likely include a 24-team postseason with the possibility of play-in games. This plan would put the Chicago Blackhawks in a playoff position despite being the fourth-worst team in the Western Conference with 12 games to play. Just last week, commissioner Bettman stated that he has no plans in canceling the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign, so it seems more and more likely by the day that the Blackhawks will be a playoff team this year. Who could have guessed?
“We’d like to complete this season,” Bettman said. “We’d like to award the Stanley Cup, the most treasured trophy and the most historic trophy in all of sports. And our fans are telling us overwhelmingly that’s what they’d like us to do because people have an emotional investment in this season already.”
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