On Tuesday, NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, sat in on a conference call put on by the San Jose Sharks for members of its business alliance and told attendees that he has no plans of cancelling the NHL season, even going so far as to say it’s “not something I’m even contemplating.”
According to Curtis Pashelka of The Mercury News, Bettman’s 20-minute Q&A covered a variety of topics but the major focus was on the commissioner’s message that he does indeed want to reach a conclusion on the 2019-20 NHL season.
“I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done. I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but cancelling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we’re doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity.”
That’s all well and good, Gary, but how likely is it that this will happen?
“States are re-opening, cities are re-opening. And if we do the right things, I think we’ll be able to finish the season.”
As we know all too well, the NHL has been in a holding pattern since March 12th and has been batting around ideas for how it can safely resume play ever since. The biggest question right now, aside from the obvious one of whether or not the league will even be able to resume, is what a return to play would even look like. At the time of the shutdown, there were still 189 games left to be played but many believe the NHL would probably jump straight into the playoffs.
“We would like to bring a conclusion to this season. It’s got to be fair, it’s got to have integrity, and if we have to do it over the summer on some modified basis, then we’ll do it on that basis.”
I mean, no matter what happens here, there are going to be teams and fans that are upset by the way this plays out so I don’t envy the decision makers that have to try and keep things “fair.” Speaking of fans, Bettman also touched on the league’s hope that they would be able to play in front of crowds during the 2020-21 campaign.
“Obviously we hope to be playing in front of fans by next season. But if we finish in August or September, there’s no magic to starting in October anymore. We can start in November. We can start in December.”
No matter what happens, these next few weeks and months are going to be strange as we watch the world navigate what comes next with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday, NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, said that he would like to make a decision on the remainder of the basketball season within the next 2-4 weeks, which means we could get an idea of what the National Hockey League will do as well.
“You’re going to be a little flexible with the schedule, because we want to be able to bring the game back, both to conclude this season on some basis and to have a full regular season next year. If that means we need to be more flexible, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Flexible is right, Gary. Flexible is right. As always, we wait.