In the NHL’s quest to complete the 2019-20 season, Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league was looking into holding games in as many as four certified arenas. Now, that plan has been expanded to eight or even nine arenas while discussions continue.
Speaking this week at a sports business teleconference, Bettman revealed that the NHL had upped its number of locations in consideration and that each site could host roughly a dozen teams should games go forward.
“I don’t think anybody has a fixed timetable, particularly in North America right now,” Bettman said, via NHL.com. “We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.”
The logistics of that remain unknown, though league executive Colin Campbell had previously shared criteria for potential locations. Key factors for the league, according to Campbell, include using NHL home arenas rather than neutral sites, staging games in an area that was relatively “friendly” in terms of COVID-19 cases and if the league would be granted authority by local governments. Bettman expanded on those thoughts this week by breaking down how the league could resume.
“And if we’re not playing in front of fans, which at least in the short term seems [likely], do we do it in a centralized location or locations? And if so, what places might be suitable from a COVID-19 standpoint in terms of the communities that you’re in and how big the outbreak is? And what is the availability of testing? And so that requires a collaboration with our medical advisers,” he said. “And I believe that all of the major sports in North America are going through this same exercise, and while the medical and health issues are probably to some extent the same for all of us, the logistics of what we do and how we do it may be a little different depending on the sport.”
The most pressing issue for the league to resume involves the lifting of border closures and quarantine guidelines for the NHL’s 17 percent of players that hail from outside of North America. Nonetheless, Bettman is remaining hopeful for hockey’s eventual return after sharing that he’s not considering calling for an end to the season.
“I think the major sports and their franchises will get through this and will come back as strong as ever,” Bettman said. “It’s just a question of time.”