For the first time since stopping play four weeks ago, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke on Tuesday of the possibility of not finishing the regular season in order to save time for the Stanley Cup.
Bettman also acknowledged in an interview with NBCSN that the league plans to play matches on neutral sites in the event that not all teams are allowed into their home rinks.
Bettman, however, pointed out that these options are part of a myriad of options being considered without anything being determined, as it will take at least two more weeks to get a clearer picture of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the 31 markets of the league.
“We are looking at all the options. Nothing was excluded. Nothing was left out, “said Bettman in an interview with the league’s US broadcast partner.
“The best thing and the simplest thing would be to be able to finish the regular season at some point and then participate in the playoffs as we normally do,” he said. “We understand that this may not be possible. And that’s why we’re considering all imaginable alternatives to deal with any eventuality. “
Bettman had not previously discussed the possibility of shortening the regular season, which was interrupted on March 12 with 189 games remaining.
The playoffs for 16 teams were slated to open on Wednesday, but are unlikely to start until the end of June – at the earliest – and could run until August and potentially September.
NHL players have been asked to self-quarantine until April 15, a date that has already been postponed twice and should be moved again. The number of NHL players positive for COVID-19 increased to eight Tuesday as the league announced that a third Colorado Avalanche player had tested positive, joining five members of the Ottawa Senators.
The season was suspended with teams having played an unequal number of matches and hotly contested races taking place in each of the two conferences.
The NHL has not set a firm deadline for the start of the playoffs at the latest. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, however, admitted in an email to the Associated Press that the league will ultimately have to establish “a last possible day” so as not to interrupt the start of the following season.
“It is nothing that we are still close to putting right now,” he wrote.
Florida Panthers goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky said it would be unfair for the NHL to dump the rest of the regular season.
“There are a lot of games (left) and we’re right in the mix, and we have the opportunity to be in there,” said Bobrovsky. “The season is 82 games, then the playoffs. So you can’t just cut where we are and jump straight into the playoffs. “
The possibility of playing on neutral sites is being considered because the pandemic affects regions at different times. North Dakota, among a handful of states without home stay orders, was mentioned as a potential site because the state is not densely populated and the University of North Dakota has a NHL caliber.
Buffalo was also discussed because the Sabers, which are out of dispute, have a two-rink training center connected to their downtown arena and a hotel with more than 200 rooms.
Boston defender Torey Krug urged the NHL to take a patient approach.
“Look, we all want to start playing again,” said Krug.
“If we have the opportunity to start playing again, let’s be careful and smart,” he added. “No one wants to go back to a situation where we put a group of people in an area, and all of a sudden, this thing takes off again. “
Bettman sees the potential for games this summer and does not expect the ability to maintain NHL caliber ice caps to be an issue due to the modern air-conditioned facilities in the league.