The sports chatter wires are starting to get active with real information – not just depressing news about how the world has been turned upside down because of the coronavirus. Both the NBA and MLB are hopeful that they will be able to resume their activity within the next two months or so, and sports fans across the globe are praying to whatever deity they look up to in an attempt to make things happen. The NHL is also starting to talk about a resumption of hockey, with several options now on the table including a four arena plan. Just like MLB is considering a tri-state solution, the NHL has a similar strategy to get players back on the ice.
NHL Could Have Four Arena Plan
There had been talk about possibly holding all NHL hockey games in a neutral location, such as North Dakota or even New Hampshire. However, league commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t believe this would be a smart move, and would prefer to see, if possible, games played out in four different arenas.
Among the current rumors for the NHL four arena plan are the homes of the Arizona Coyotes, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Minnesota Wild and the Toronto Maple Leafs, but nothing official has yet been released from the league.
The initial single-location plan was thrown out due to the lack of locker rooms and other facilities. Should the league decide to go with the four-arena approach, only certain facilities will be approved for games.
According to NHL Senior Executive VP and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, who discussed the matter with Sportsnet’s Hockey Central, “There’s a number of criteria. Is it a friendly hub? What state is friendly? What province is friendly? What are they dealing with [in terms of COVID-19 cases]? Obviously, you look at the New York area, it’s not very friendly, and you look at Alberta, that seems fairly friendly.”
Resuming Games Ultimately Won’t Be League Decision
Whether or not the skates are sharpened and players dust off their uniforms to get back into the swing of things won’t be a decision the NHL makes. As with all activity currently, local and state government regulations dictate what happens next, and the league will have to abide by whatever lockdown orders, if any, are in place.
Campbell adds, “All of this is contingent, nothing has been decided. The decision ultimately will be made by medical people and people who run governments at all different levels. We’re not going to try to do anything that flies in the face of what we’re being told is appropriate.”
If the hockey action can get going again soon and if a productive calendar can be implemented, the world may see a Stanley Cup race in the summer for the first time. There’s also the possibility, if further delays in relaunching society are implemented, that the league might be forced to play out the season well into October. Either way, the picture is clear – the 2019 season has to be completed, if for no other reason than to not incur any additional revenue losses than what have already been seen. To stop the season now would be a hit of about $1 billion to the league’s wallet, and allowing the season to play out will generate around $450 million – it wants every bit it can get.
What Happens To 2020-21 Season Because of COVID-19?
With the current season already substantially delayed, and plans to complete the games at any cost, the 2020-21 season will undoubtedly be impacted, as well. Normally starting in October, there’s almost no chance that this will be possible for the next season. Instead, the league is considering launching games in December and work out a schedule that would allow all 82 games to be played. This could include eliminating the All-Star break and bye weeks, and even given players a shorter Christmas break. However, if that’s what it takes, and as long as the NHL Players Association agrees, then at least things will be able to return to normal.
Maybe by then we’ll know finally know the name of the Seattle expansion team.