The NHL does not yet have a definitive answer for when, or how, it will resume its now-suspended season. However, the league is beginning to roll out its options for resuming play.
A new Q&A form was released March 23 to offer some insight into the league’s paused operations, safety recommendations, future scheduling and more. NHL officials maintained that they are heeding to guidance offered by the CDC and public health authorities going forward, but remain hopeful that conditions will allow them to open a training camp 45 days into the CDC’s 60-day recommendation of restricted gatherings.
“The form and format of resumption of play scenarios will depend entirely on what transpires between now and when we are permitted and able to resume — and, ultimately, on timing and taking into account logistical constraints,” the league wrote. “We are going to have to be flexible and react to events as they unfold as well as the best medical advice available.”
They also confirmed all players are under a period of self-quarantine until March 27, though some may stay in isolation longer regarding their recent travel and any health concerns that may occur. The league addressed the two Ottawa Senators players that have tested positive for COVID-19 and said they are in isolation and monitoring their condition. However, there are no plans to test the entire league for the virus.
Days before the new information was released, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly offered his take on how the season will be able to resume. Daly noted that escalating health factors derailed the league’s initial hope to pick back up in roughly a month’s time. However, he remained determined to carry out playoffs, though perhaps in a different format.
“I think we have had a meaningful regular season in terms of separating potential playoff teams from nonplayoff teams. And so I think in terms of integrity, the regular season has had integrity,” Daly said. “What integrity means in the context of a playoff tournament, there’s a couple different aspects to that. Is a single-elimination game in the context of our sport, is that really fair? And maybe it is fair, but maybe it’s fair in some contexts of the playoffs and not in others. So you want to come up with a format that you think is fair for the participating teams but also has integrity in terms of producing a deserving winner.”
The NBA is in the same boat as the NHL with their season also at a standstill and playoffs right around the corner. Commissioner Adam Silver recently relayed that the league is exploring a trio of options for the NBA’s eventual return: playing as usual for packed arenas, playing games for no fans yet, or taking the court in exhibition style to appease sports fans deprived of games at the moment.
No matter which route the NHL takes upon its return, officials maintain they do not anticipate the 2020-21 season to be altered or shortened as a result.