The NHL has designs on playing a full 82-game season, with a goal to begin play on or around January 1.
The gulf between reality and desire may be significant, however. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly stated that a number of concerns still exist with respect to the coronavirus.
“The goal is still to start as early as January 1 and to play a full season,” Daly said Friday. “Having said that, we also recognize, depending on a host of different things, that it could take a different form and we might not be playing a full season, we might not be playing into the summer, we might not be starting on January 1. So there’s still a lot of uncertainty.”
Daly and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with the NHL’s general managers via video conference on Friday and discussed a host of subjects, the most pressing of which has to be a potential start to a new season.
The NHL is responding to a spike in coronavirus cases across North America and has to act accordingly. On one hand, the NHL is not going to want to sit longer than it has to. Time is money.
On the other hand, if the league blows this it will be impossible to recover fully.
The league has to monitor regulations and issues like the Canada/U.S. border. There are advances in the works, like in Alberta where a pilot testing program could be put in place in the Calgary International Airport to augment the prevailing 14-day quarantine for those entering the country. If that program works and testing becomes more feasible, quarantines could be reduced to 48 hours.
“Obviously, we’re hopeful that they have some success in terms of piloting that program,” Daly said. “It certainly could change the landscape as it relates to us and other professional sports.”
The NBA is looking at starting play somewhere around December 22 or Christmas Day and hopes to have a schedule of 72 games. The NHL has usually followed suit, as they did during the initial shutdown, but there are differences in border travel and other matters that will come to the fore.
While January 1 is, of course, a provisional date, it’s something. And for now, that’s all we have. A day ago, the NHL announced the postponement of both the All-Star Weekend and the Winter Classic until 2022.