More information has come to light about the NHL’s return to play plans, as league commissioner Gary Bettman referenced a handful of “hub cities” that could accommodate games.
Bettman was giving a keynote address for Leaders Week on Monday when he alluded to the fact that the NHL was considering eight or nine hub cities to house a dozen or so teams in one location. There is, according to reports, no timetable on a return to play but plans are in the works.
“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,” said Bettman. “There is still a great deal of uncertainty.”
There are issues to solve before any return to play can be put in motion, of course. The border remains one of them and quarantine issues will also require resolution. With 17 percent of NHLers currently outside of North America, getting everyone on the same page is a pressing concern.
Facilities in the proposed hub cities would need the capacity to house a number of games each day without fans in attendance. This would require multiple locker rooms, plus enough hotels in the city, and the capability for COVID-19 testing.
That said, the NHL is adamant that they do not want to “jump the line” in terms of COVID-19 testing or take away from local medical community resources for the sake of a game.
“I am told that there can be enough capacity, and certainly over the next couple of months, there will be more capacity,” said Bettman.
The NHL has a number of options, but they’ll have to deconstruct numerous questions first. All eyes will be on them and other returning sports leagues over the next while, as the slightest slip could spell disaster.
The league, ideally, wants to resume the regular season and finish it before heading to a playoff scenario. That’s been the plan all along, but that’s slipping away with each passing day. One idea that keeps coming up is that of a 24-team playoff. The NHL Entry Draft is also a consideration, as discussed before.