By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman remains in ‘no stone unturned’ mode for the still-suspended 2019-20 season.
Speaking in a digital keynote interview on Monday, Bettman noted that the league is currently looking at “eight or nine different places” that could accommodate a dozen teams in one location to help the league resume its season and crown a 2020 Stanley Cup champion.
Bettman’s attempts to find potential hub cities is nothing new.
When the league first paused, some potential low-infection locations (North Dakota and New Hampshire) were mentioned as possible spots for an NHL resumption. But it’s believed that the league has since shifted towards more larger-city options, as the league will need to put teams in sizable cities that are capable of both housing teams and staffs, delivering NHL-quality ice, and keeping everyone out of harm’s way. And Bettman’s plan is not an idea that’s exclusive to the NHL. It’s believed that the NBA is looking at putting teams in two centralized locations (Las Vegas and Orlando are the favorites for NBA hubs), while MLB reportedly gave serious consideration to beginning their 2020 season in Arizona before their talks made their way to empty, home ballparks for all 30 teams.
Asking a city to house a dozen NHL teams at once is no easy task. In fact, nothing about a potential return is easy.
And it’s certainly part of the reason why the NHL has not settled on a definitive timetable with their return-to-play talks.
“I don’t think anybody has a fixed timetable, particularly in North America right now,” Bettman admitted. “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.”
There’s enough uncertainty to make you wonder if this is even a truly viable option for all involved. From what I understand, the league continues to explore the idea of hub cities, but acknowledges that it’s entirely possible that teams play in their home arenas this summer. (Locally, Mayor Marty Walsh talked about the possibility of opening TD Garden later this summer in his interview with the Boston Globe last Friday, which seemed rather telling.)
I mean, nobody even knows what the league is going to look like upon its return. Not even Bettman is sure if the league will have some more regular-season games to settle some logjams or go right to the postseason, though the idea of a 24-team playoff format has continued to gain steam in talks between the NHL and NHLPA’s Return To Play committee.
The NHL has also said that they’re not going to ‘jump the line’ for testing just to return in a timely manner.
Like he’s said before, everything is on the table for the NHL.
“I believe that all of the major sports in North America are going through this same exercise,” Bettman admitted. “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.”