“We have people who make the full list of what we would need from the facilities and assess certain facilities at a certain level,” said Daly. “But I can’t tell you that we’ve even finished creating a list [of potential sites], even less reduced. “
Among the possible locations reported for neutral site games, which would likely be held in empty arenas, are Grand Forks, North Dakota; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. But Daly said the NHL hasn’t even “set the stage” yet to determine which sites would work.
Wherever games are played, the stated goal of the NHL, if it can kick-start the 2019-20 campaign, is to end the regular season and have a playoff tournament. The NHL ended its regular season on March 12, with 189 games remaining on its regular season schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic. The regular season was scheduled to end on April 4, with the playoffs scheduled to begin four days later.
As the league explored playing games during its traditional off-season in July and August, it also said that the integrity of next season is essential to any decision it makes on its fate.
Daly said there is no target date for the NHL to decide if there is time to play regular season games before the playoffs – if the season does resume.
“We are just starting to think,” said Daly. “It’s kind of a combination of things, like when we can start a regular season [in 2020-21] and how much time we need for an offseason, then what the playoff format looks like, in terms of what you need to have a regular season. “
The Stanley Cup Playoffs typically include four of the best of seven playoff series, although truncating the tournament may be necessary due to time constraints. Daly said it would not necessarily include a format with one-shot playoff games.
“I would say a best-of-one is not something we would ever go to,” said Daly. “I have always had the caveat that everything is on the table and that nothing is out of the question. I would say there would be strong opposition to ever creating the playoffs where it was just one elimination. I think the best of the three is more possible, not preferred, but more possible than a best-of-one scenario. “
The NHL is also studying what neutral site games would mean for the health and safety of players. What if, for example, a player chooses not to return to play during a pandemic, for the sake of their own well-being or that of their loved ones?
“I feel like the players are very eager to come back. Obviously, they want to be healthy and safe, ”said Daly. “If a particular player had a particular concern, we have had similar situations in the past and we, as a league, have been sensitive and receptive to this situation. Obviously, if it becomes too widespread, it becomes more problematic in terms of capacity. to come back. But this will be settled in advance. “
Daly said it was too early to determine whether players should travel alone for neutral venue games or whether they could bring family members with them.
“I mean, players have been staying with their families for a while now, which lasts a month,” said Daly. “So I don’t think bringing families would necessarily increase the risk, but it would depend on what the health organizations tell us, what the authorities tell us and their recommendations and best advice. “
“From our point of view, the primary consideration here is what is safe and will protect the health and well-being of our players and, of course, the general public. It may not be on the calendar very far, but it is on a decision tree, very far. “