All sports organizations around the world want nothing more than to remove the suspension brought about by the coronavirus, but public health is taking precedent, and a firm date on when the leagues can resume is still beyond reach.
While most sports leagues have been vocal about their plans to resume games, the NHL has been relatively silent; however, that has now changed. Commissioner Gary Bettman has finally weighed in on the state of affairs in hockey, and his comments are not all that optimistic about the NHL goal of returning to action.
Final Decision On NHL Action Still Weeks Away
In an interview with NBCSN, Bettman acknowledged that the league is considering all possible scenarios, adding that nothing has been ruled out. The NHL is still waiting, as is everyone else, to have a clearer picture of what COVID-19 is going to do, and the commissioner stated that a final decision on resuming hockey games may not come for another couple of weeks.
The NHL brough the season to an early close on March 12 because of the coronavirus, and Bettman has been silent ever since. 189 games were still on the schedule when he gave the order, hoping that any suspension would be only as short as necessary. However, as has already been seen with states around the US extending their stay-at-home policies, the virus is not willing to go away that easily.
Summertime Hockey Might Be Coming
Bettman believes, if the league is allowed to resume, that holding games in the summer months is not out of the realm of possibility – hockey rinks these days are more than capable of overcoming hot weather with their advanced air conditioning and cooling systems. He also said that it’s possible for matches to be held at neutral sites that could be approved by federal health officials.
The commissioner said during the interview, “The best thing, and the easiest thing, would be if at some point we could complete the regular season and then go into the playoffs as we normally do. We understand that that may not be possible and that’s why we’re considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is. Again, it doesn’t even pay to speculate because nobody in any of the sports knows enough now to make those profound decisions.”
Hockey Players Could Descend On North Dakota
Hockey players and the league have already started to talk about the possibility of holding regular-season and playoff games in some place such as North Dakota. In particular, the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks would be an ideal location, as it has the capacity to allow 11,640 fans, if they’re allowed to attend, and has an established history of holding important games. However, finding a way to provide accommodations for everyone involved in the 31 league teams is going to be an extremely difficult task.
Commissioner Bettman Is Prepared For The Worst
Bettman added something else to the conversation that may not be what many hockey fans want to hear.
“From an NHL standpoint, we’re viewing all of our options,” Bettman said. “We want to be ready to go as soon as we get a green light – and the green light may not be crystal clear because there may still be some places in the [U.S. and Canada] where we can’t play and other places where you can. We’re looking at all options. Nothing’s been ruled in, nothing’s been ruled out. And it’s largely going to be determined what we do by how much time there is, because we have next season to focus on as well and the health of the countries.”
“Nothing’s been ruled out” could be a prophetic statement. Unlike most sports leagues that are determined to see their seasons play out, Bettman has made something unequivocally clear. The NHL is prepared to cancel the season if necessary.