What emerges as a blueprint is to bring the teams back to a few empty NHL buildings to complete some, if not all, of the remaining regular season games before opening the playoffs and awarding the Stanley Cup for the 125th time. in the past 127 years. .
According to the most aggressive schedule, the players would return to their rink on May 15, followed by a training camp and possible exhibition games in June, a person familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press.
The regular season would then resume in July, with the Cup being awarded in September, the person said Tuesday, on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been finalized.
Commissioner Gary Bettman noted that no decision has been made and noted that the government and medical officials will ultimately appeal for the return of the sport. However, the league and the NHL Players’ Association have formed a joint committee to determine a course of action that could put the games on the ice in July without the presence of fans.
WATCH | The NHL describes a possible return scenario:
The joint committee issued a statement Wednesday evening echoing Bettman, saying they “hadn’t made any decisions or set a timetable for a possible comeback.” However, they added that they believed it was possible to resume small group activities at the team’s facilities from mid to late May.
“When we think the players are safe and we have enough tests and we have enough means to get back on the ice for us, it will probably be contained by playing on four or five neutral sites,” said the Florida Panthers president Matthew Caldwell. . “I guess we would start with limited fans or empty arenas, so just the teams and their associated staff. “
In one scenario, teams compete in four NHL arenas in North America. Each would play about a dozen regular season games to tie the rankings and determine the seeders. The game has been postponed with a total of 189 matches remaining for the 31 teams.
“The fairest season is a full season,” says McDavid.
Edmonton captain Connor McDavid, who sits on the weekly NHL / NHLPA committee, believes “the fairest season is a full season,” but that may not be possible. Players must approve any return plan.
“The guys are preparing to eventually have to play this summer,” said McDavid, “and the guys just want to play. “
It probably means playing in empty NHL buildings. The minimum league requirements require arenas with at least four NHL caliber locker rooms, a nearby training center, and hotel infrastructure. They also cannot be located in a COVID-19 hotspot, although this definition is not clear.
“Among the scenarios we are looking at, there are potentially up to four [cities] because we need a lot of ice, “said Bettman on Sportsnet last week.
WATCH | Flames captain Mark Giordano hopes for the return of the NHL:
Bettman alluded to playing up to three games a day, which would provide much-needed live entertainment on NBC Sports and other networks, many of which have time to fill up after the postponement of the Summer Olympics.
No fan would be present and even broadcasters could limit themselves to calling games remotely. Mike “Doc” Emrick, the voice of hockey in the United States for NBC Sports, has done this a few times for matches played abroad or outside.
“It was an interesting concept,” said Emrick. “It is not impossible because of the high definition now and because of the precision you get with the cameras. “
The league is still exploring sites, although Bettman’s criteria puts places like Edmonton, Alberta and Columbus, Ohio, on the list because the ice rinks and hotels are all nearby. Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan said Toronto was in the running and Bettman spoke to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney last week about Edmonton.
“We obviously expect the league to prepare a very detailed plan to mitigate the risks,” said Kenney. “I guess the NHL is looking to end the season in arenas for low-profile television. Whether or not we can adapt to this, we don’t know yet. “
League could lose up to US $ 1 billion
Some projections suggest that the NHL could lose up to $ 1 billion US in revenue if the season was not finished. The financial blow would affect both owners and players under the league’s revenue-sharing agreement.
There are still many unknowns, ranging from when teams can reopen facilities and bring players back from Europe.
However, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the best infectious disease expert in the country, had already suggested a way to bring the sport back: without fans and with players often quarantined and tested.
“On paper, it could certainly work if all the athletes, coaches, medical staff and service workers around them are isolated for 14 days and tested negative before meeting,” said Dr. Patrick Mularoni, medical director of the sports medicine at Johns. Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “You would need 100% strict membership to stay away from anyone outside the” bubble “or oasis and the virus would not enter. “
One concern among gamers is how long they could be playing in relative isolation and without their families for what could be months. There is also the risk of infection, hockey being a contact sport.
“Player safety is something that comes up all the time when I talk to guys in the league or guys on my team,” said NHLPA Boston Bruins’ defenseman Torey Krug. “Frequent testing is something that could probably help, but we have to make sure it’s really safe to reach the point where we can even talk about it. “