The NHL continues to consider options to finish this season, with the selection of multiple “hub” cities appearing to offer the most likely path to accomplish that.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday the league is considering “probably eight or nine different places” that could accommodate “a dozen or so teams in one location,” according to nhl.com, which quoted his remarks during a digital interview with Leaders Week, a sports business conference.
The “hub” concept would place teams in an NHL city to play, practice and isolate. Bettman has mentioned two or four hubs as a possibility, though that number could grow, and said NHL facilities would be required to properly and safely stage multiple games per day. It’s likely games would be played without fans in attendance, at least initially, and local safety mandates would be observed.
The chance of finishing the regular season has grown more remote as the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended. Bettman has said he is willing to let the 2019-20 season run through the summer in order to award the Stanley Cup. A 24-team playoff is one option, possibly with best-of-seven series being shortened to best-of-five for the early rounds.
“I don’t think anybody has a fixed timetable, particularly in North America right now,” Bett-man said. “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.”
According to nhl.com, Bettman acknowledged the league would have to resolve border passage and quarantine requirements that vary from state to state and from country to country. He also said the league would need the ability to administer coronavirus tests, adding: “We certainly can’t be jumping the line in front of medical needs. …
“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.”