Cancelling the remainder of the 2019-20 NHL season is not an option for Gary Bettman. The league’s commissioner shared in a virtual town hall this week that ending the season without crowning a Stanley Cup champion is “not something I’m even contemplating,” according to The Mercury News.
Bettman has expressed his desire to complete the season since operations were first suspended two months ago. Reported options for carrying out games have ranged from neutral sites to delaying the start of the 2020-21 season. The most recent contingency plan, according to Bettman, is to resume play in up to four NHL arenas.
“I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done,” Bettman said. “I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we’re doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity.”
There has been no definitive plan for where, when or how the season could resume, though games will be behind closed doors as most returning sports leagues are doing. Medical expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said leagues like the NFL could allow limited fans depending on what the community outbreak looks like in a few months time, which will directly impact how the NHL moves into its next season.
“Obviously we hope to be playing in front of fans by next season,” Bettman said. “But if we finish in August or September, there’s no magic to starting in October anymore. We can start in November. We can start in December. You’re going to be a little flexible with the schedule, because we want to be able to bring the game back, both to conclude this season on some basis and to have a full regular season next year. If that means we need to be more flexible, then that’s what we’ll do.”
There have been only two instances in history where the Stanley Cup was not awarded to a league champ. The first was in 1919 due to the Spanish flu while the second came in 2005 during an NHL lockout.