The NHL paused its 2019-20 season March 12 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but that hasn’t stopped NHL executives from trying to sort out how future events will work.
The league postponed the 2020 NHL Draft two weeks after the season was paused. That said, the NHL still is looking for ways to finish the current season and squeeze in the annual draft as the United States continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
During a call with the media Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested the league is exploring a four-arena plan for completing the regular season, according to ESPN. Cities featured “won’t necessarily be divisionally based,” Bettman said, and can be located anywhere that “isn’t a hot spot” and includes features necessary for both the arena and practice facilities.
Teams would compete in three games a day, per the report, though Bettman “presumes there wouldn’t be fans in the building.” The NHL is eyeing Bank of America Stadium (home of the Carolina Panthers), Rogers Place (home of the Edmonton Oilers) and Xcel Energy Center (home of the Minnesota Wild) as possible locations.
As of Wednesday, the league no longer is considering college facilities or smaller arenas as neutral-sites “due to a lack of facilities for players, staff and broadcast partners,” per ESPN.
As for the draft, Bettman confirmed the league hopes to hold a selection process before the 2019-20 season resumes. The NHL reportedly is considering holding a virtual draft in June, though Bettman did not confirm that during Wednesday’s call.
“It was a trial balloon. No decision has been made,” Bettman said. “But as I said, when we were getting feedback, we don’t live in a world of perfect anymore. We’re going to have to make adjustments. Ideally, from our standpoint would be if we can complete the regular season, even if it’s on a centralized basis, and then go into the playoffs that we normally play them.”
Fingers crossed will see some NHL action (whatever it might bee) sooner rather than later.