NHL: The League Has More Return-to-Play Ideas

It’s almost the end of April and that can mean only one thing: it’s time to discuss the possibility of hockey in the summer.

What we have over the last two or three days is some movement on the NHL front, with news about a virtual draft in June and a potential push to finish the season in July. Bear in mind, these are only “ideas” and they are merely in rounds of discussion right now – none of it formal, none of it binding, some of it promising.

With those caveats in mind, here’s what we know.

Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke with Sportsnet Wednesday and mentioned that as many as four NHL arenas could host three games a day without fans in order to get through the end of the regular season. On paper, that’s a wild idea – a sort of hockey marathon to get the games in the tank required to pull out the stops for the playoffs.

But that’s just, again, an “idea” and Bettman was clear to say it was one of many.

Another “idea” is that of a June NHL Entry Draft, which basically means that teams will participate in the draft prior to the end of the regular season.

“It was a trial balloon,” Bettman said. “No decision has been made. And I said as we were getting some feedback, ‘We don’t live in a world of perfect anymore. We’re going to have to make adjustments.’ Ideally from our standpoint – and it would resolve a lot of issues – would be if we could complete the regular season, even if it’s on a centralized basis, and then go into the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] the way we normally play them.”

That trial balloon was floated to the league’s general managers and there are, again, more “ideas.” One is that the league pretty much has to play its games in NHL arenas because those are the only arenas equipped to properly handle the NHL game. So holding games at centralized locations in non-NHL markets or locations like college rinks is out.

The league will also require the right amount of locker rooms, especially since they plan on playing multiple games per day and ensuring safety protocols are followed in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Right now, players and staff are continuing to self-quarantine until April 30. That could change, as the deadlines for self-quarantining have already been extended a few times. After the self-quarantine ends, the “idea” is to resume some sort of training camp to get players into game shape. And that will be about three weeks, according to NHLPA and NHL sources.

After that, all bets are still off in terms of how and when play will resume. But at least we have “ideas” and that’s something.

Photo credit: NHL

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